MCW Awarded the Platinum Level Skin Smart Campus Award by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has been awarded the Platinum Level Skin Smart Campus (SSC) Award by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, which recognizes MCW’s commitment to ensuring the well-being of the campus community by providing a safe, healthy learning and living environment on and off campus. Part of that commitment includes keeping indoor tanning devices off campus and out of all affiliated buildings as well as promoting skin cancer prevention and UV safety education.

MCW medical student Nathaly Gonzalez, who serves as co-president of MCW’s Dermatology Interest Group (DIG) chapter, was instrumental in the joining of the SSC Initiative. DIG is a group of medical students interested in pursuing dermatology as their specialty and focuses on community outreach and education. When the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed community outreach activities, Gonzalez wanted to find another way to advocate for safe skin practices and worked with MCW to ensure the campus met the SSC criteria, including housing zero indoor tanning devices. Gonzalez worked with Olushola Akinshemoyin Vaughn, MD, assistant professor of dermatology, to update the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin website with updated skin cancer warning signs, including information about skin of color.

“We applaud Ms. Gonzalez and the MCW DIG chapter’s outstanding work and dedication to community education,” said John Antonishak, executive director of the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. “The National Council is honored to welcome MCW as the newest Skin Smart Campus and eager to share news of their events and future outreach.”

The Platinum Level SSC Award includes two sunscreen dispensers with a one-year supply of sunscreen, which will be installed at the courtyard entrance on MCW’s Milwaukee campus.

“It is our hope that the sunscreen dispensers will serve as a tangible reminder to the campus community to take steps to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors,” Gonzalez said.

The Indoor Tan-Free Skin Smart Campus Initiative was developed in response to the 2014 U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer, which concluded there is a strong association between increased risk of skin cancer and indoor tanning use. Numerous studies have found that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – is one of the most common cancers diagnosed among young adults. According to The International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group, the use of indoor tanning facilities before age 35 increases the risk for melanoma by 75 percent.

As a leader of DIG, Gonzalez’s goal is to expand the chapter’s educational services to underrepresented communities. This spring she will lead a partnership with St. Augustine’s Preparatory School, which serves predominantly Latinx students, by implementing SPOTS (Sun Protection Outreach Teaching by Students). Medical students also work closely with faculty dermatologists at the MCW Saturday Clinic for the Uninsured (SCU) to provide dermatologic care. SCU provides training for future healthcare professionals while simultaneously serving the uninsured population in Milwaukee, the majority of whom are Black or African American.