Teledermatology, fast action stop melanoma before it spreads

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Donna Randall – Sedalia, Missouri

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Donna Randall's story

When your health is at risk, you want to see a doctor. Fast. I learned that in 2018, when my husband and I noticed that one of my moles had started to change shape and color, turning from a circle to an oval, and going from black to brownish pink.

Our town doesn’t have many specialists nearby, so I booked an appointment with my primary care physician, Dr. Samang Kim, for first thing the next morning. He sent photos of the mole to dermatologist Dr. Kari Martin using a telemedicine platform. Dr. Martin immediately knew it was serious and squeezed me into her schedule for later that morning.

I drove an hour to Dr. Martin’s office. By 11 a.m., I was meeting with her in person, and within 30 minutes, she and her colleague Dr. Nelson had removed the mole. It turned out to be melanoma, and if we hadn’t caught it early, it could have been life-threatening. I’ve lost loved ones to cancer, and I am so thankful I was able to get treatment so quickly.

Dr. Martin took me seriously and made herself available to Dr. Kim and me in an incredible way. Going from a teledermatology diagnosis to surgery in just three hours is a remarkable thing, and I can’t thank her, Dr. Nelson and Dr. Kim enough for working together so seamlessly to provide our community with necessary care.

Since that day, I’ve had several other moles removed, and now I have routine mole checks with my primary care doctor every six months. The piece of mind these visits provides is invaluable. I know I was fortunate — in our town many folks don’t have access to transportation or are otherwise unable to travel to see specialists. With the growth of telemedicine and teledermatology, however, it’s easier than ever for all of us to get the help and treatment we need.

The dermatologist's perspective

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We’ve used teledermatology for more than 20 years to see patients from all across Missouri, and it helps us greatly improve access to care in rural areas. It’s also much more convenient for patients with routine issues, as we can provide treatment recommendations to their primary care physician, saving them from having to take time off work and drive long distances to see a dermatologist in person. We also participate in Derm ECHO, a virtual learning program that teaches primary care physicians about diagnosing and treating common skin diseases. Through these efforts, we’re able to help Donna and others quickly get the urgent treatment they need.

– Kari Lyn Martin, MD
University of Missouri Health Care