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History and Activities
MEF in Action
Lesson Impact: Student and Teacher Survivors

Who we are
Major Supporters

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 49 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.

MEF In Action

Health teacher workshop at
Whitman-Hanson Regional High School
led by Jan Danowski

Dermascan screening at
Gloucester Health & Wellness Expo with former board member Cindy Gordon-Drost

Dermascan screening at
Concord-Carlisle High School
with board member Carolyn Tobia (d)

Michael Brown, Director of Nevada Chapter, speaking to students at Valley High School


Melanoma Lesson Impact: Student and Teacher Survivors


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.

Mary received the melanoma lesson at Reading High School, MA as a freshman. In her senior year she found a changing mole on her back; it was also an early melanoma and was successfully removed. Because they found their melanomas early Adrianna and Mary avoided what otherwise could have been unimaginable tragedies.

Paul Coffy

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
Muhlenberg County Career &Technical Center, Kentucky

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."


Event Highlights

Loved Ones

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.


Who we are

Directors and Officers

Les Brody

Les joined the Melanoma Education Foundation as Chief Executive Officer in November, 2017. Most recently 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.

Stephen Fine
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.
Daniel Rich
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.
Dean Ward
Dean is a Stage 3 melanoma survivor whose efforts led to corporate support of MEF by the GE Aircraft Engine Division Employees Good Neighbor Fund and through a GE Retiree Golf Tournament. He also connected MEF with the North Shore Cancer Association (formerly Lynn Cancer Association), which has provided major funding. Dean has presented numerous informational talks about melanoma. He and his wife, Kathleen Giadone, are active participants in the annual MEF calendar raffle and other activities.

Professional Advisory Board

Jessica Ballinger
Jessica, who joined the MEF Board in July, 2016, is Vice President of Reimbursements snd Strategic Alliances at the biotech company Lyndra in Watertown, Massachusetts. Previously she was Senior Director of Patient Insights and Exerience Leader at Biogen and Senior Director and Device Strategy and Business Unit Interface at Pfizer.
Cristi Barnett
Cristi is 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.
Alan C. Geller, MPH, RN
Alan is a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Univeristy School of Public Health.
He is a melanoma survivor with extensive expertise in melanoma statistics and public health initiatives for reducing the incidence and mortality of skin cancer.
Tom Haggerty
Tom. who lost his father to melanoma, has extensive executive experience in medical education and training, nonprofit management, finances, and strategic planning.
Chris Hussey

Chris is Tax Manager at Baker Newman Noyes in NH.
He lost his father, Michael, to melanoma at age 62.

Hillary Mann
Hillary is Assistant Director, Marketing and Corporate Development, Harvard Business School and is also an expert in social media marketing.
Jaclyn Luongo
Jaclyn is a licensed esthetician, esthetic instructor, and business consultant with over 16 years of experience. She has worked with top resorts and day spas and has trained in Europe and Los Angeles with star make-up artists and skin specialists. She is currentliy a business consultant for Iredale Mineral Cosmetics in the Boston area.
Shari Sarnevitz
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 and also serves as the MEF Clerk.
Larry Schoen
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.

Student Ambassador

Renee Banks
Renee, a Nursing student at Rgis College, lost her grandfather to melanoma in 2008. While in high school she developed a program "Melanoma Awareness: Educate, Demonstrate, Terminate" and develped a Facebook page with the same name to help spread her message. She also designed a sun-safety program that she presents to school-age children.

Honorary Trustees

Gary Ashwal

Patrick Robinson

Catherine Yeh


Major Supporters

The Melanoma Education Foundation is grateful to these organizations and/or people
for financial or other contributions in support of our goals during the past 12 months:

Jessica and Barry Ballinger

Fred Bergfors & Margaret Sanberg Foundation

The DeGen Family Fund

Susan and Charlie Erbafina

Maureen Judge

George and Julie Mosher Family Foundation

The Jennifer Sweatman Memorial Fund

The Jennifer Linscott Tietgen Family Foundation

Renee and Larry Waters
Olympus Financial Advisors (NM)

Sue and John Zarba

Winnetu Oceanside Resort



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