President’s Update June | 2020



Greetings to the AIM at Melanoma community,

Thank you for so many thoughtful acknowledgments and heartfelt tributes for my mother. All of us at AIM, as well as my family, are touched by your words.

I did not think my first letter as president of AIM at Melanoma would come as a result of her death. In fact, we had long discussed me taking the reins after she retired someday. But here we are.

She had been ill for a few months, but she was still—even three weeks ago—helping to run AIM despite her illness. One of the key things she repeated over the last few months was the importance of continuing to care and advocate for the melanoma community and continuing to fund our research during the virus. Melanoma does not stop during a pandemic, but it certainly can get more complicated, she said, noting that some people are dealing with a COVID-19 illness or a job loss in addition to melanoma. She reminded all of us at AIM to keep patients and research at the forefront of everything we do.

While we had been planning to send out a newsletter at the end of Melanoma Awareness Month with the latest in the AIM world, this newsletter will reflect a lot of the work she encouraged us to do during the pandemic in addition to our usual updates.

One critical piece of our foundation’s mission is our Steps Against Melanoma walks, because the net profits from the walks go directly to our tissue bank. For the health and safety of all involved, we have changed all of our in-person community walks to virtual walks. Thank you to all of our walk coordinators, sponsors, and participants who have been so flexible in the transition to a virtual format.

We also have added a global virtual walk to our schedule, set for Halloween—October 31, 2020. Look for more information on that walk soon! Please know that your support of our Walks program is support of our research programs. For those who are able to continue financially supporting our Walks in the coming months, thank you. Remember—anyone, anywhere can walk in our community virtual walks and our global virtual walk on Halloween.

Our new campaign, Step Out Against Melanoma, features a petition that asks you to pledge that you will wear sunscreen every time you step outside. Our goal is to collect 100,350 signatures in the next year, to represent the 100,350 cases of invasive melanoma that are estimated to be diagnosed in 2020. Sunscreen is an easy way to reduce your risk of melanoma, but you’ve got to put it on! There are so many types and brands to choose from—everyone can find a formula they like. We hope you’ll sign the pledge AND forward it to five other people.

Melissa Wilson, PA-C, MPAS, the melanoma physician assistant behind our Ask an Expert program, and AIM have been busy in the last few months meeting the needs of our patient community.  On March 18th, as many states were moving to shelter-in-place status, Melissa and AIM launched From the Clinic to the Living Room: Conversations with Melissa Wilson, PA-C, MPAS. The first was delivered on Facebook Live and called COVID-19: What People with Melanoma Need to Know. Over 4,600 people watched Melissa’s Conversation on that day or since then. Three other Conversations occurred in April, May, and June and one more is scheduled for later this summer; read more here.

Our symposiums are always well attended, so as the shelter-in-place orders came down, we had to think through how to continue supporting our patients without offering in-person events. But since we’d already enabled a system of live streaming at our symposiums, we were able to shift to an all live-stream format quickly. We’ve co-hosted four symposiums since March: one with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, one with Oregon Health & Sciences University, one with Moffitt Cancer Center, and one with the Cleveland Clinic. Our next scheduled symposium is co-hosted by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on June 13, 2020. Join us!

Over the last two months AIM has partnered with Vernon Sondak, M.D., Chair of the Department of Cutaneous Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center and Director of Surgical Education, and Jane Messina, M.D., Senior Member, Departments of Pathology and Cutaneous Oncology, Moffitt Cancer Center, on webinars for the healthcare provider community called Melanoma vs. The Pandemic. These online round-table discussions bring together physicians throughout the world to discuss the challenges treating melanoma during COVID-19; read more about this program here.

Finally, we have some news to announce. First, the background: The AIM website fills a critical need for accurate, thorough, and up-to-date information for melanoma patients, caregivers, and families. Over the years, many people with nonmelanoma skin cancer—specifically squamous cell skin cancer and basal cell carcinoma—have come to our site looking for information about their disease and treatment. And when they don’t find this information, they’ve contacted us asking if we know of an AIM-like site for these other skin cancers. We are excited to launch the Skin Cancer Education and Research Foundation (SCERF), a new, sister organization to AIM at Melanoma, and the SCERF website, filled with accurate, thorough, and up-to-date information on these two skin cancers. Read more in the press release!

Again, thank you for all of the kind words about my mother on our Tribute page.

I am excited about the work we are doing, the impact it is having, and what the future holds.

Samantha Guild
AIM at Melanoma Foundation