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Helping make free skin cancer screenings accessible for all

Stephanie Choi, a medical student at UMass Memorial Medical Center, sought to bring dermatology care to the underserved.

Stephanie Choi's story

Stephanie Choi (medical student) participated in skin cancer screening event.
Stephanie Choi (medical student) and others from UMass Memorial Dermatology participated in this skin cancer screening event.
Homelessness is a pervasive and widespread problem in the United States. In 2022 Worcester, Massachusetts, the second-largest city in New England, saw a staggering 45% increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness. As a medical student interested in dermatology and health equity, I wanted to seek ways to bring dermatology services to this underserved patient population. In November 2022, I and others from UMass Memorial Dermatology organized a skin cancer screening event via the AAD’s SPOT Skin Cancer™ screening program at the Veteran’s Inc, a shelter for displaced and unhoused veterans. This was the first skin cancer screening held at a shelter in the city of Worcester dedicated to individuals experiencing homelessness.

We provided skin cancer screening to many veterans and other members of the community, including individuals with visual impairments and mobility issues. We also handed out sunscreen and skincare samples, teaching participants the importance of sun protection. 

It was a very humbling experience to learn the stories of many unhoused veterans and their barriers to care. While skin cancer screening was the main focus of the event, we identified many infectious and chronic skin conditions in participants that also needed dermatologic care. After the event we coordinated with the shelter to help patients schedule appointments for dermatology visits, including biopsies and visits to establish long-term dermatologic care.

Our post-event analysis showed that over half of the participants needed a follow-up appointment, and nearly all of the participants who needed follow-ups had never seen a dermatologist before! We were also able to diagnose several cases of skin cancer and coordinate surgical excision for these patients. Overall, our data clearly speaks to the importance of bringing skin cancer screening services to the community, as well as increasing awareness and improving access to dermatologic care in the underserved patient population.

We are planning to organize more SPOT Skin Cancer™ events at various shelters and community organizations. We are grateful that the AAD’s SPOT® program provided us with the resources to make free skin cancer screening events possible. Our hope is to bring SPOT Skin Cancer™ throughout the city of Worcester, making skin cancer screening free and accessible to all.

Support SPOT Skin Cancer™

The SPOT Skin Cancer™ initiative helps reduce the incidence of skin cancer and saves lives by building shade structures, providing free skin cancer screenings, and installing sunscreen dispensers. Learn more about how you can get involved.

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