VCU Medical Student Lands National Funding for Melanoma Project
Community Volunteers and Sponsors Invited to Join Effort

Richmond, VA. A Virginia Commonwealth University medical student has landed a $12,000 grant to create a community education program that will raise public awareness of melanoma, a potentially life-threatening skin cancer. According to university records, this is the first national grant ever awarded to a VCU medical student.

The community education project called Check Your Skin was developed by Seth Forman, who will begin his fourth and final year at VCUís School of Medicine in the fall. Formanís project was chosen by the Association of American Medical Colleges for funding through a grants program supported by Pfizer. One of six programs chosen this year, Check Your Skin is eligible for renewal for an additional three years and for up to $18,000 in additional AAMC funding.

"About 30 years ago, the health-care community started to encourage women to do self-breast exams to increase their chances of finding breast cancer early. Now itís a part of our culture," said Forman. "Iíd like to see the same happen for melanoma."

Without early detection and treatment, melanoma can quickly spread to the lymph nodes and throughout the body. Currently, health-care providers are the primary screeners for melanoma, but Formanís education project proposes that medical students teach the public how to perform self-skin exams that would increase their chances of finding the cancer early.

With the help of Julia Nunley, M.D., an associate professor of dermatology in VCUís School of Medicine, Forman developed a project proposal centered around distributing at least 10,000 educational, self-exam cards to people in the Richmond-area community.

The cards aim to make melanoma detection as easy as the ABCs by providing a well-known mnemonic device to guide people as they examine moles and other skin lesions: Asymmetry; Border irregularity; Color; Diameter changes; and Elevation differences. The cards also serve as a ruler to make charting diameter changes convenient. Equipped with a suction cup so that they can be hung on a bathroom mirror, the reminder cards will also be printed in Spanish.

Forman envisions the cards being distributed through physicianís offices and local health departments as well as at student-led workshops at locations like community centers, non-English speaking groups, day care centers and nursing homes. His plans also include a Web site and monthly e-mail reminders to every person who registers with Check Your Skin.

Forman will launch the awareness campaign this fall and expects to plan activities through next summer. With the next few months devoted to laying the groundwork for a smooth kick-off, Forman is on the look-out for community involvement in the form of volunteers or sponsors.

"If we can stage a successful awareness effort in the Richmond area, my hope is that the American Cancer Society will adopt our self-skin exam card as their own to encourage people to be on guard against melanoma. The ACS already offers cards for breast and testicular self-exams."

This spring, Forman was named the recipient of the medical schoolís Susan Mellette Fund Scholarship, an annual award that goes to a student with an interest in cancer research and prevention. Named in honor of a former faculty member in the School of Medicine, the scholarship will cover about half of Formanís tuition costs next year.

Anyone interested in participating in the Check Your Skin effort should e-mail or

Date Last Modified: June 07, 2001 Questions/Comments? Contact Us
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