Each year the Board of Directors of IMPACT Melanoma presents the Keeper of the Hope Award to a member of our IMPACT community whose generosity, vision and commitment to the organization over time is unwavering. This award is named after Suzanne Donahue, a young woman who lost her battle with melanoma at age 37. Suzanne was gracious, giving and reminded us all about the power of giving-back no matter what your circumstance.
We’re thrilled to announce that the 2019 Keeper of the Hope Award Winner is Lisa Cohen, Managing Director of StrataDx. Lisa will be presented with her award at our 2019 Shades of Hope Gala on Friday, November 15, 2019 at the Colonnade Hotel – we’re celebrating our 20th year. The event also serves as IMPACT Melanoma’s 20th Anniversary!
Lisa has been such an important part of IMPACT Melanoma, generously sharing her time, talents, and treasures with us for many years in various capacities. Whether as a board member, event leader, fundraiser, or trainer, Lisa has continually served IMPACT and its mission with passion and vision. She sets a high standard with her commitment to the cause and we’re forever grateful for her contributions.
Dr. Lisa Cohen received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and her medical degree from the University of Vermont College of Medicine in 1989. She completed an internship at Boston University Medical Center followed by a residency in dermatology at the University of Louisville and a fellowship in dermatopathology at the University of Colorado. Lisa served on the faculty at several prestigious universities including Harvard Medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine, and Boston University School of Medicine. She has earned numerous honors and awards from the World Congress of Dermatology, Women’s Dermatologic Society and other organizations. Lisa has authored many articles in leading peer review publications and lectured extensively throughout the United States and abroad. She has served as Secretary, Vice President, President and Advisory Board Member for the New England Dermatological Society and was the founder and president of Cohen Dermatopathology, P.C. In short, her she has spent her professional career advancing the awareness of skin care, which lines up directly with our mission here at IMPACT.
Lisa sat down with us for a brief Q&A on what being selected as the 2018 Keeper of the Hope recipient means to her on a personal level and her stance as a daily skin care advocate.
What do you appreciate about being named the recipient of the annual “Keeper of the Hope Award”?
I have been involved in the organization for nearly 10 years, serving on the board for 4 years and chairing the Shades of Hope gala for 2 years (serving on the host committee for 5 years). The event is amazing, so inspiring and incredible. The award is perhaps the greatest honor of my career. Melanoma has been the focus of my career for 25 years as a dermatologist and dermatopathologist. Being able to work with IMPACT to help with education, prevention and support for melanoma patients has been an honor in and of itself. But to be recognized in this way has made me speechless (that doesn’t happen very often). I am more of a quiet contributor and supporter. I am fortunate to have many amazing friends and colleagues who say, “well if Lisa is supporting them, then I will too.” So many of my non-medical friends have become involved in the organization. I have also had a few very close friends and colleagues touched by melanoma. My best friend from college who remains my best friend to this day lost her mom to melanoma a couple years ago. My stepsister was diagnosed with melanoma a few months ago. My cousin married a woman who was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma in her 20s (she spoke at last year’s Shades event). And I have other similar stories with friends and relatives.
Tell us a bit about how you initially got involved with IMPACT Melanoma. Why did you get involved?
I am a dermatologist and dermatopathologist with an interest in melanoma. I heard about the organization (originally MFNE – Melanoma Foundation of New England) from some dermatology friends and colleagues. In my laboratory, we diagnose 5-10 melanomas a day. It has become clear to me that this disease is an epidemic, particularly amongst young people. So I wanted to get involved, to spread the awareness about the dangers of the sun and tanning, and to help patients who are suffering with melanoma. I also have 3 sons, and there was an opportunity to do some educational events at their colleges.
What keeps you engaged with the organization?
I am so impressed with the drive and passion of IMPACT. So much time is spend on education and prevention. As a dermatopathologist, I see so many newly diagnosed cases of melanoma. It is an epidemic, one of the fastest growing cancers in terms of new cases. So prevention is the only way we are going to make any headway. I love that IMPACT spends time trying to get young people out of the sun and out of tanning booths. They spread the word to colleges, high schools, summer camps and even through legislative efforts. Deb Girard and Amy Mason are 100% committed. That’s rare to find in nonprofits.
What is the importance of an organization like this existing?
Same as above. Melanoma is an epidemic. It is the number one cause of death in women in their 20s. We need to continue to educate people on the dangers of the sun and tanning booths. Now that IMPACT is national, we can have an even broader reach. Unfortunately, we can’t prevent all cases. So the work they do to help patients who are affected by melanoma is also priceless. The Billy’s Buddies program and other services they offer to patients and families affected by melanoma are invaluable.
Tell us about the ways you have or continue to assist in – as a board member to an event leader, fundraiser, trainer, etc. – what do you enjoy about pitching in and lending a helping hand? Are there specific IMPACT related initiatives that you look forward to on an annual basis?
Although I am no longer on the board or the host committee for Shades, many of my friends and colleagues still support IMPACT financially and through sponsorship and advocacy. My laboratory StrataDx continues to be a strong supporter by donating to the organization and bringing people to the Shades event every year. Many of my friends are now supporters (other dermatologists, dermatopathologists, dentists, pharma / lab professionals, entrepreneurs, insurance agents, lawyers, real estate brokers, financial advisors, accountants, and more). I am constantly speaking about the organization to friends who are looking for a way to get involved. I still speak on occasion for the Your Skin is In program, and in fact am planning at event at Brandeis University where my son Isaiah Freedman is a junior and supporter himself. Deb and Amy still consult with me on ways we can broaden our reach.
What’s your personal battle cry as it pertains to skin care? Why do YOU use sunscreen and protect the skin you’re in?
I am a HUGE advocate for sun protection and avoidance. My 3 sons are 19, 21, and 22. They are very much aware of the risks and ALWAYS wear sunscreen. I taught them that it’s like brushing your teeth. You never leave home without it. I love the beach and in fact rent a beach house in Ogunquit Maine for the summer. I also run and love being outside, but would never go out without sunscreen. My kids used to come in my bedroom before camp every AM naked to get “sunscreened up” when they were very young. I recently had a clean bill of health with my primary care but my blood work revealed a very low vitamin D level (ha ha that’s great news, means not enough sun), so I started supplemental vitamin D capsules. It is like smoking and lung cancer. As soon as all people are aware of the risks, maybe we can make an IMPACT and start reducing the incidence!
For more information on StrataDx click here.
Join us at the Gala to help recognize and cheer on the efforts of Dr. Lisa Cohen. For more information click here.