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Minding the gap

AAD member Travis W. Blalock, MD, FAAD, loved bringing the personal and the professional together through Skin Cancer, Take a Hike!™.

Dr. Blalock’s story

I don’t remember exactly how I heard about Skin Cancer, Take a Hike! for the first time — it might have been the vivid orange color that caught my eye. When I looked into what the program was, I saw that there were some fascinating hikes offered in areas that would be considered “off the beaten path.” For example, hiking in Patagonia or Alaska sounded thrilling, but challenging with a young family. Then, I realized that some of these events were even being held in locally.

Skin Cancer, Take a Hike! fills gaps that we commonly see in our communities. When it comes to community deliverables, it helps our neighbors see that dermatologists care about their health and are actively backing shade structures in their local neighborhoods. When we had in-person events, community members would pass by the event and enthusiastically engage. They would see multiple dermatologists and providers who treat skin cancer all united at a single event, highlighting the impact that shade structures, sunscreen dispensers, and skin cancer screenings have in the community. Furthermore, it unifies patients, their families, dermatologists, and the larger dermatology teams over a collective purpose — to successfully prevent and treat skin cancers.

Professionally, I loved that it brought together other dermatologists and providers in the area because we are so commonly busy providing care, we don’t get to see each other and interact often enough. The Emory Dermatology team’s excitement really took off because we had previously united over a competitive walking program sponsored by Emory to engage employees with their health. This was a way to extend that competitive nature and marry our daily goal of preventing/curing cancer with our natural competitive drive.

Personally, it was great to be able to get my family involved and to see my girls’ enthusiasm while being a part of the Skin Cancer, Take a Hike! efforts. My family and I have participated in the in-person events held in Atlanta, and the virtual events that took place over the past year or two due to the pandemic. I don’t think I necessarily prefer one over the other. I think both in-person and virtual events provide distinctive benefits.

The in-person events provide an awesome experience of getting dermatology colleagues, teams, and patients from around the community to come together for a bigger rally. After the isolation we all experienced during the pandemic, I appreciate the advantage and the exhilaration of being together in person and what that excitement can accomplish. However, the virtual events have allowed people to be involved as individuals, not limited to any given day, and to show a sustained commitment to preventing skin cancer despite our physical distance.

In addition to the community fun and camaraderie, I also participated to raise funds for the AAD’s skin cancer prevention and detection programs. Fundraising did go better for me in the pre-pandemic years, but I believe we will build on past successes and do better in the future when we can choose between hiking in-person or virtually. I will certainly participate again as the money raised with this program has impacted my own community in a meaningful way.

Support Skin Cancer, Take a Hike!™

Skin Cancer, Take a Hike!™ raises awareness and funds for the AAD’s skin cancer prevention and detection programs. Learn more about this initiative, and how you can get involved.

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