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About R.A.Y.S. (Raising Awareness about Your Skin)

In 1999, five Dayton dermatologists expressed their concerns about the lack of sun safety awareness among the school-age population and became the catalysts for the RAYS (Raising Awareness about Your Skin) Project. The doctors were seeing first-hand the impact of a thinning ozone layer: incidents of skin cancer cases were increasing because patients were not protecting themselves from ultraviolet radiation. Since 80% of the damage to the skin happens before age 18, the dermatologists requested that the Montgomery County Medical Society Alliance (MCMSA) develop a classroom program that raised students’ awareness about sun safety and skin cancer. Ultimately a contingent of 32 physicians and 25 Alliance volunteers combined forces to produce RAYS, a national and state award-winning project.

Initially, the committee found that although school districts were eager to include sun safety and skin cancer awareness in their curriculums, appropriate teaching tools were non-existent, accurate information scarce and, teachers lacked the knowledge to properly educate students. RAYS endeavored to provide teaching materials at every grade level and offer in-service training to university education majors, school teachers and school nurses. Middle and high school students were actively taught in the classroom.

During the first year RAYS reached 4,000 students in four months. The second year increased to 6,500 and in the third year we instructed 9,000 students. Because there was so much demand for the presentations, we felt that an original presentation would be supported, one that could be used by anyone in a single classroom period. Towards that end the Physicians’ Charitable Foundation of the Miami Valley bestowed a grant that enabled the committee to develop an original CD.

The RAYS CD utilizes a one-lesson, scripted presentation that can be read, presented adlib, run in a kiosk silently or by activating anarration. Additionally, the presenter can chose either automatic or self-advancing slides. The basic presentations include information about the consequences of the thinning ozone, awareness about the importance of skin protection, the students’ own risk for skin damage, the basic characteristics of the three skin cancers (including the A,B,C’s of melanoma) the perils of tanning beds and sun protection advice. Another production deals with tanning beds, facts and myths. And finally, the elementary school slides give the why’s and how’s of skin protection. Images of classic skin cancers are given in each presentation.

The end results have brought spectacular rewards: RAYS won the American Medical Society Alliances’ prestigious national HAP (Health Awareness Promotions) Award and for three years it was named the best health education and collaborative project in the state of Ohio. The presentation has been given at:

  • Ohio Dermatological Association annual meeting
  • Ohio Medical Alliance meeting
  • Annual Ohio School Nurses Association meeting
  • 2003 CDC Cancer Conference (Poster Presentation)
  • Grand Rounds (Kettering Medical Center
  • Wright State University and University of Dayton
  • Annual American Academy of Dermatologists meeting

RAYS Co-chairman, Samia Borchers, MD, won Ohio Outstanding Dermatologist of the Year 2001 for her involvement with RAYS. Best of all, almost 60,000+ middle and high school students have heard about the importance of skin protection.

Subsequently the program was selected for sale by the WRS company in it’s Health Edco Catalogue.

“Only by starting with our children will we have an impact on the epidemic of skin cancer spreading through the country.” (Brodell, 2002) Skin cancer awareness and sun safety education are both critical areas of health education and must be taken seriously. The RAYS Project has successfully met and exceeded this challenge.

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