MEF HISTORY, ACTIVITIES, AND PEOPLE
History and Activities
MEF in Action
Lesson Impact: Student and Teacher Survivors
Who we are
History and Activities
The Melanoma Education Foundation is a non-profit preventive health organization that saves lives by promoting greater awareness of melanoma and the importance of early self-detection. The Foundation evolved from a father’s web site tribute to his son, Dan Fine of Peabody, who died of melanoma in 1998 at the age of 26, and was incorporated as a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization in Massachusetts in August, 2000.
In early 1999, the Foundation initiated services to Massachusetts North Shore high schools. With grants from the Perpetual Trust for Charitable Giving, Essex County Community Foundation, and Abbot and Dorothy Stevens Foundation an on-site training session, “Teaching High School Students About Skin Cancer,” was developed for health educators. The course, which includes a detailed one-session lesson plan, video, and all required student hand-outs, is registered with the Massachusetts Department of Education, allowing attending teachers to receive credit toward required Professional Development Points. Services were then extended to middle schools and to the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Nevada, and the Rochester New York area. By the end of the 2014 to 2015 school year the single session SkinCheck® class had been adopted by over 1700 schools in all 50 states.
In August, 2008 the Foundation completed two new student videos directed and co-produced by Emerson College graduate students Gary Ashwal and Catherine Yeh. The videos, "Should've, Could've, Would"ve" and "My Melanoma Vlog," received a 2009 Gold Triangle award from the American Academy of Dermatology. The MEF teacher-training video,"Teaching the SkinCheck Class," subsequently received an AAD 2010 Gold Triangle award.
In addition to the primary activity of educating health teachers and their students in high schools and middle schools about melanoma the Foundation conducts numerous community outreach sessions at regional wellness events, public libraries, colleges, city employee sites, post offices, and service organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs. Educational talks and facial sun damage screenings are also available to businesses.
The Foundation seeks to continue and expand high school and middle school educational services, to serve as a resource for health educators in the subject of skin cancer education, and to promote greater public awareness. Revenue for services is provided primarily by individual contributions, proceeds from special events, and grants from corporations and foundations.
Why we Support Education Rather than Research
A question that we are sometimes asked is why we decided to devote our resources to education rather than research. The answer goes back to 1998, shortly after my son Dan died of melanoma at the age of 26. It became apparent that his death, like most melanoma deaths, could have been prevented by early detection. As we learned more by communicating with family members of other melanoma victims it became apparent that most melanoma victims, like Dan, had not been educated about the disease until it was too late. Because melanoma risk jumps dramatically in the mid-20s age group, high schools are ideal venues for educating teens about melanoma but we found that most high school wellness teachers were also uneducated about melanoma and often did not include the subject in health classes at all.
Melanoma is unique among cancers. It is the easiest of all cancers to self-detect at an early stage when it is easily curable by simple excision in an outpatient setting. But when not caught early enough it is among the most malignant and incurable of all cancers.The deciding factor in our decision to focus on education rather than research was our passion to prevent Dan’s tragedy from happening to others and to see lives saved during our own lifetimes. Delayed or posthumous gratification was was not an attractive option. We thought about supporting research but it wasn’t at all clear to us who or what to support or that the limited financial support we could provide would make any difference. A bewildering array of research activities exist. Would we support genetics research aimed at elucidating the underlying pathways leading to melanoma? If so, what was the best choice? Even research on a subject as seemingly far afield as Zebra fish has yielded results that are relevant to melanoma. Would we support development of new medicines? Since pharmaceutical companies invent most new cancer medicines that wasn’t a realistic option. Would we support development of machines that could more rapidly determine the structure of genes and their associated proteins? All of these are worthy activities but we came to the conclusion that, although “research” sounds more exciting than education, our likelihood of saving even a single life by supporting research was slim. While it seems clear that the combined research of many will eventually result in a cure for melanoma it was also clear that hundreds of thousands of lives would likely be lost unnecessarily before a reliable and affordable cure is developed. The results of our high school and middle school program have reinforced our early decision to promote education rather than research. Middle school students, high school students, teachers, and visitors to this web site have found early melanomas that they said they would not have paid any attention to were it not for MEF educating them.
For her masters degree project in what was then the Emerson College Health Communications Department, talented student Merissa Picerno designed, administered,
and compiled the results of a survey to gauge the effectiveness of the student lessons. 334 of 1300 high school and middle school health teachers invited to participate
in the web-based survey completed it, answering questions about student feedback and actions after receiving the lessons. Results are summarized in the table below
Health teacher workshop at
Dermascan screening at
Dermascan screening at
Michael Brown, Director of Nevada Chapter, speaking to students at Valley High School
Melanoma Survivors Adrianna Manzi (L) and Mary Gill (R)
Adrianna received the melanoma lesson while she was an 8th grade student at Kennedy Middle School in Woburn, Massachusetts. A few months later she noticed a changing mole on her wrist that was diagnosed as an early melanoma and successfully removed.
Paul received the melanoma lesson from health teacher Maria Spicher in the 11th grade while he was a student at McDowell High School in Erie, PA.
After the lesson he thought of a mole on his toe that had been there most of his life. For a few weeks prior to the lesson the mole had been getting darker and slighly larger but until then, he had never thought it was anything serious. Shortly after the lesson he had it removed; the pathology report indicated it was a severely atypical mole (pre-melanoma) that had a high probabilty of becoming cancerous.
Melanoma Survivor Tania Chrzanowski
Tania is a health teacher at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts. She attended a live MEF teacher-education session in 2006 and has been teaching the lesson since then. As a result, she became concerned about a changing mole on her arm and, in 2012, had it removed. The mole turned out to be an early melanoma. She believes the melanoma was caused by her tanning bed use starting as a teen in high school.
As a result of her experience she developed and now operates a part-time spray-tanning business. She is passionate about educating others about melanoma and especially to avoid tanning beds
Melanoma Survivor Cindi Eggemeyer
Cindi is a health teacher at Festus High School in Missouri who watched the MEF teacher-education video and started presenting the student lesson in 2012.
She became more aware of a scar on her leg that resulted from removal of a benign mole several years earlier but looked like the mole may have been returning. She also was concerned about a new spot that had appeared on her arm.
Both spots were excised; the one on her leg was a melanoma and the new spot on her arm was a possible melanoma (sometimes it is difficult for pathology to distinguish between a severely atypical mole and an early melanoma).
Patrick Dennehy, Student at Andover High School, Massachusetts
After receiving the melanoma lesson in health class Patrick became concerned about a suspicious spot on his ankle. The mole was abnormally shaped and itchy and, after viewing photos on the MEF website, he became even more concerned. Biopsy results showed the mole was an atypical spitz nevus that had a high likelihood of developing into a melanoma if left untreated. The mole was successfully removed by a plastic surgeon. Jason wrote "I'm glad I found it early enough to have it taken care of before it got worse!"
Jackie Hicks, Nurse Instructor at
Jackie had no idea that presenting the melanoma lesson and showing the "My Melanoma Vlog" video to her students would have a major impact on her life. After showering she noticed a new "freckle." It wasn't dark or irregularly shaped but, because of the video, she knew it should be looked at. Because the freckle was new the dermatologist PA took a sample for biopsy. The result indicated an early stage melanoma that was then removed succesfully. Jackie wrote "I truly believe that if it weren't for this lesson I wouldn't have thought twice about my " freckle."
MEF president Steve Fine (3rd from L) at Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, June, 2013, with Andre Tippett, Vince Wilfork, and Tom Brady at New England Patriots Myra Kraft Community MVP Awards Ceremony.
July, 2008 preview and celebration of new student videos with (from L) Catherine Yeh, Steve Fine, Prof. Timothy Edgar, and Gary Ashwal. Emerson College graduate students Catherine and Gary directed and produced the videos with assistance from Prof Edgar and Steve. The videos received a 2009 Gold Triangle Award from the American Academy of Dermatology.
Audience at the Melanoma Education Foundation Comedy Night Dinner Show at Montvale Plaza, Stoneham in April 2013. The event was dedicated to the memory of Keri McCarthy of Somerville who died of melanoma in 2010 at age 35.
The comedians included Lenny Clarke, Dave Russo, and Artie Januario.
Directors and Officers
Les joined the Melanoma Education Foundation in November, 2017. He was President and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of New England, a position he held for 13 years. Prior to then he was Director of Development for the Greater Boston Aid for the Blind, Executive Director of the Eliot Community Mental Health Center, Director of the Iowa Drug Abuse Authority, State Coordinator for Drug Abuse Planning in the Indiana Department of Mental Health, and President of Les Brody Associates, a company specializing in organizational and human resource development. Les, who received a Ph.D. from Boston University in Organizational Sociology, brings a wealth of superlative experience in nonprofit organizational development, fundraising, strategic management, and team building to MEF.
|Steve is the founder, president, and health educator of the Melanoma Education Foundation. He lost his son, Daniel, to melanoma in 1998 at the age of 26 and started the foundation in 1999. On behalf of the foundation he has received many honors and awards including a Salem News "Great People Make Great Places," award, a 2008 Boston Celtics "Heros Among Us "award, a 2009 Peabody Chamber of Commerce Community Spirit Award, recognition as a 2011 Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center "The One Hundred" honoree, and a 2013 New England Patriots Myra Kraft Community MVP award.
|Gail is a retired dental hygienist, wife of Steve Fine, and mother of Daniel Fine. She joined the Board recently as secretary and has assisted with fundraising and publicity since the inception of the foundation.
|Dan is president of Daniel F. Rich and Associates and has extensive experience in accounting, financial analysis, tax preparation and planning, budgeting, auditing, forecasting, bookeeping services, and management consulting.
Professional Advisory Board
|Cristi is Head of Corporate Communications at Editas Medicine, a leading genomre editing company in Cambridge, MA. She was previously a Senior Vice President at the Boston office of Fleishman-Hillard, one of the five largest global public relations/ communications companies.
Arthur F. DiMattia, M.D.
|Dermatology Associates of the North Shore, Peabody, MA
Philip S. Ellerin, M.D., F.A.A.D.
|In addition to maintaining a practice in dermatology in Burlington, MA, Dr. Ellerin is Assistant Clinical Professor at Tufts University and is a Clinical Instructor at Boston Medical Center.
|Hillary is Assistant Director, Marketing and Corporate Development, Harvard Business School and is also an expert in social media marketing.
|Shari, a nurse at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and previously a school nurse in Marblehead, lost her husband, Dana, to melanoma in 2004 at age 42.
|Larry handles legal affairs for MEF. He is an attorney with the Boston firm of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. which has provided essential legal services to MEF. Larry lost his father, Joel, to melanoma in 1997 at age 57.
The Melanoma Education Foundation is grateful to these organizations and individuals
for financial or other contributions in support of our goals recently:
Les Brody and Amy Seeherman
Susan and Charlie Erbafina
Jeffrey Fine & Deborah Hirschland
American Express Employees
The Jennifer Sweatman Memorial Fund
The Jennifer Linscott Tietgen Family Foundation
Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation
New England Patriots Foundation
Winnetu Oceanside Resort