Dermatology Department spreads the word about skin care and skin cancer prevention

Dermatology Department spreads the word about skin care and skin cancer prevention

By Maura Sullivan Hill

“Everyone’s skin looks different, and we should all be supportive.”

That was the message that the Stritch School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology wanted to convey on their visit to Proviso East High School in Maywood, during a special presentation about skin care and skin cancer prevention.

Twenty volunteers from the department—including medical students, residents, doctors, and nurses—spent the day with 208 ninth grade students at Proviso East. The presentation, “The Skin You’re In,” educates on common skin conditions and treatments, hygiene, body self-esteem, skin cancer awareness, and skin cancer prevention.

“Many skin diseases, such as acne and vitiligo (loss of pigment), can be emotionally distressing to both teens and adults,” said Rebecca Tung, MD, associate professor and division director of dermatology, who helped organize the event. “As dermatologists, I think it is important that we provide a guiding voice that tamps down appearance-centric messaging on social media and remind people that what really matters is on the inside.”

The Stritch dermatologists also wanted to remind the students that it is never too early to prevent skin cancer. They stressed wearing sunscreen daily, along with hats, sunglasses, and other sun protective clothing. Plus, avoid tanning beds and see a dermatologist regularly.

They also walked the students through the warning signs of skin cancer in moles: asymmetry, border irregularity, color change, diameter growth, itching, or bleeding.

“Most skin cancer is due to exposure to the sun. If you see something new or changing on your skin, ask your doctor to take a look at it,” Dr. Tung said. “Since nearly half of all skin cancers are first identified by the patient themselves, knowing the signs and symptoms of skin cancer is important.  When it comes to skin cancer, early detection and treatment can save lives.”

The volunteers and students also had some fun with their newfound knowledge—first-year medical student Itisha Jefferson created a Pokemon-themed game to quiz the students on what they learned during the presentation.

“The kids were fierce in the game, but it was friendly competition,” Dr. Tung said. “The classes were divided into two teams to answer the dermatology quiz questions. The students asked many insightful, high-level questions about the origins of skin cancer and how they could help friends and family members with various skin conditions.”

Stritch’s dermatology residents and medical students have presented this program to underserved youth audiences across Chicago, and there are plans to host this event again at Proviso East next year.

“The students were very engaged, and it was a great experience for our Loyola dermatology residents and medical students to share their expertise, while also learning the finer points of holding the attention of a teen audience,” Dr. Tung said. “Our department is passionate about volunteering and this type of community service and educational outreach.”