USF medical students teach tanning dangers

Driven to spread the word about the importance of sun protection, USF College of Medicine students are telling local high school students how to protect themselves from the skin cancer.

Last fall, fourth-year medical student Salma Pothiawala helped start a local chapter of Check Your Skin, a national organization dedicated to raising awareness of skin cancer and the importance of sun protection. The USF chapter is under the guidance of Dr. Mary Lien, associate professor in the USF Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery. Through community outreach programs and teach-ins, USF medical students increase skin cancer awareness and educate teens on how to correctly perform self skin exams.

Fourth-year medical student Salma Pothiawala (left) and second-year medical student Mark Halsey share skin cancer information with a student at a recent health fair at Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School.

“The students have been very interactive and interested in what we have to say and I hope we are making a positive impact on their lives,” Pothiawala said. “We hope to become much more active in the community in the future. It is essential to reach out to individuals in the community regarding the necessity for sun protection, especially in a state like Florida, where people are involved in so many outdoor activities. We must stop the development of skin cancers before they start by educating this young population. Melanoma is the most common cancer in females between the ages of 25 and 29.”

In addition to Pothiawala, USF medical students also involved in the Check Your Skin chapter are Mark Halsey and Katherine Madden.

“All of us medical students who have become involved in Check Your Skin are passionate about dermatology and preventative medicine,” Pothiawala said.

One of their most recent educational efforts was at a health fair at Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High in late April, during which they had a booth about skin cancer-related issues and shared skin cancer information with students.

– Story by Sarah Worth