DIGA Volunteer Spotlight: Jessica Orofino

Sep 22, 2023

The writer and thought leader of volunteerism, Ivan Scheier is credited as saying, “The broadest, and maybe the most meaningful definition of volunteering: Doing more than you have to because you want to, in a cause you consider good.”

Jessica Orofino certainly personifies that definition as a volunteer for IMPACT Melanoma.

As Practice Safe Skin Manager, Laurie Seavey remarks, “Jessica has been a true asset in educating outdoor workers on the importance of UV protection.”

Here, Jessica shares the story of her volunteer experience with IMPACT Melanoma … 

What made you get involved with IMPACT Melanoma?

I was introduced to IMPACT through the opportunity to give a talk to cosmetology students about detecting spots/moles suspicious for skin cancer, and talking to clients about it. I thought this was a brilliant idea, especially in the way this would create a type of community health liaison more accessible to those that may not be as able to see medical professionals.

I love dermatology, and am particularly interested in providing care for under-served populations, so this seemed like a great opportunity to make progress toward that goal.

Carolyn Foley and I worked on the presentation together, figuring out the best ways to ~de-medicalize~ our understandings of skin cancer and following along with IMPACT’s course, Skinny on Skin, to really help the pre-professional cosmetologists feel confident in looking out for their future clients.

After giving that presentation, and seeing how interested they all were to learn about their skin and how to protect it, I was hooked. 🙂 

It was easier to do than I thought it would be, they cared more than I thought a large group of highschoolers would, and I wanted to tell more people all about it! 

After that, we gave presentations to businesses, lifeguards, and hope to talk to even more groups about some simple ways they can look out for themselves and others.

Every time I talk to a new group, I’m excited to know that a few more people are going to wear sunscreen (even just a little more often) or seek out care when a spot just isn’t quite right (which can be lifesaving!)

Do you have a personal connection or experience with skin cancer or melanoma that inspired your action?

Skin cancer runs in my family- I actually went with a family member of mine for their Mohs surgery to get one removed from their face. It took seven rounds, and their surgeon did an excellent job being as sparing as possible, but it’s not something anyone would choose to go through if they didn’t need to.

My family member was lucky enough to have a big family to get them to appointments, check in on them, and advocate for their care, but there are so many people who don’t have that. That’s part of the reason I think it’s so important to talk to community members about the key things they need to know about skin cancer and encourage them to tell others- they’re a massive part of access to trusted information and care beyond the clinic doors.

What did you learn from this experience and, as a follow up, what do you want other people to learn or know when they hear about IMPACT Melanoma or skin cancer/melanoma in general?

I used to think that getting care to under-served populations meant getting doctors face-to-face with such communities. This experience taught me that another huge aspect is training community members, so that care and information has a better chance to get to the people a doctor might never see.

I also learned that people are most excited to learn about things they can see on themselves (color changing UV bands to let people know that cloudy or not, the sun’s rays can still be out!) (the SAM UV damage detector for people to see what areas they may want to focus a bit more on for applying regular sunscreen). When people understand things in their own ways, they’re better able to get that information across to someone else 🙂 

When people think of IMPACT Melanoma and skin cancers in general, I hope they think of the ABCDEs, the importance of protection for all skin tones, and IMPACT’s website as an awesome resource to learn about it all!

Ready to volunteer your time and talents to IMPACT Melanoma? We would love to have you! If you are a DIGA student, email Laurie Seavey at lseavey@impactmelanoma.org. For general volunteering opportunities, email Tracy Sconyers at tsconyers@impactmelanoma.org.

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