Saving lives through education

About MEF

Our Vision: Creating a melanoma-free world through education.

Our Mission: Inspiring people to implement life-long habits for self-detection and prevention of skin cancer.

The Melanoma Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization devoted to saving lives from melanoma, a common skin cancer that may be fatal unless detected early before there are any symptoms. The Foundation increases awareness of melanoma three ways:

History and Activities

Daniel Fine

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 includes a detailed one-session lesson plan, video, and all required student documents. 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 1,700 schools in all 50 states and Canada.

Celebrating the completion of the student videos
Catherine Yeh, Steve Fine, Prof. Timothy Edgar, and Gary Ashwal

In August, 2008 the Foundation released 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 initiated virtual presentations to Rotary Clubs in Eastern and Atlantic time zones in 2022 and, since then, has conducted over 340 presentations for U.S. and Canadian clubs.

Receiving the Patriots MVP Award
June 2013 Steve Fine (3rd from L) at Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, , with Andre Tippett, Vince Wilfork, and Tom Brady at New England Patriots Myra Kraft Community MVP Awards Ceremony.
Comedy Show fundraising event
April 2013 MEF Comedy Night Dinner Show in Stoneham The event was dedicated to the memory of Keri McCarthy of Somerville who died of melanoma in 2010 at age 36. The comedians included Lenny Clarke, Dave Russo, and Artie Januario.
Dermascan screening at Gloucester Health & Wellness Expo
Dermascan screening at Gloucester Health & Wellness Expo with former board member Cindy Gordon-Drost

The Foundation seeks to continue and expand high school and middle school education services, to serve as a resource for health educators 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 educators 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 curable by simple excision in an outpatient setting. But when not caught early enough it is highly malignant and often incurable. 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 acceptable 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? 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 reliable and affordable cures were developed. The results of our high school and middle school program have reinforced our 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.

Directors and Officers

Les Brody

Les Brody PhD, LICSW

Les joined the Melanoma Education Foundation in November, 2017. 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.

Steve Fine

Steve Fine, PhD

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.

Gail Fine

Gail Fine

Gail is a retired dental hygienist, wife of Steve Fine, and mother of Daniel Fine. She joined the Board recently as secretary and has assisted with fundraising and publicity since the inception of the foundation.

Professional Advisory Board

Arthur DiMattia

Arthur F. DiMattia, M.D.

Dermatology Associates of the North Shore, Peabody, MA

Philip Ellerin

Philip S. Ellerin, MD, FAAD

In addition to maintaining a practice in dermatology in Burlington, MA, Dr. Ellerin was Assistant Clinical Professor at Tufts University and a Clinical Instructor at Boston Medical Center.

Shari Sarnevitz

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.

Larry Schoen

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.

Honorary Trustees

Gary Ashwal
Catherine Henry
Patrick Robinson

Major Supporters

The Melanoma Education Foundation is grateful to these organizations and individuals for recent financial or other contributions in support of our goals:

Les Brody and Amy Seeherman
Susan and Charlie Erbafina
Jeffrey Fine and Deborah Hirschland
M.S. Walker, Inc.
American Express Employees
The Jennifer Sweatman Memorial Fund
Goldman Sachs Gives Annual Giving Fund
Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation
New England Patriots Foundation

The Melanoma Education Foundation is devoted to educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. Information provided by the Foundation should not be used for diagnosing or treating a skin problem or disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a skin problem you should consult a dermatologist, plastic surgeon, or other professional healthcare provider.