Raising Awareness for Safe Fun in the Sun

Certified PA Alyssa Hernandez Pena provided health education about skin cancer risk factors and warning signs, promoted prevention strategies and screening recommendations, and offered sunscreen samples to more than 5,000 community members in central Florida.

Alyssa recruited fellow PAs, PA students, pre-PA students, dermatologists, other health care professionals, and community members as volunteers to help her.

Early in her efforts, COVID-19 restrictions forced her to pivot from her original plan to participate in large, outdoor community events.   However, Alyssa wasn’t deterred as sun exposure was at an all-time high as people sought outdoor activities.

She modified her outreach, reaching community members on Florida trails and beaches, where people could have small socially-distanced gatherings.  She also reached a more diverse population through outreach to medical offices and local aestheticians, massage therapists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists.  In fact, educating professionals who “see” the skin about how vital their role can be in skin cancer prevention and awareness became an additional focus.

“With skin cancer being the most commonly diagnosed cancer, I believe continuing and improving upon this program could make a big difference in my local community.  I hope to encourage more PAs in the field of dermatology to become involved in their local community and assist in creating fun and effective ways to spread awareness,” shared Alyssa.

Volunteers logged more than 450 hours distributing over 5,000 packets with sun safety education information about skin cancer, prevention strategies, statistics, and interactive quizzes.  More than 3,000 participants completed the quizzes for the chance to win prizes.

Participants shared their appreciation for the educational materials, especially a visual guide to performing self-skin checks.  Since the project began, Alyssa has also seen an increase in new patients, specifically those under 45 years old, scheduling their first complete skin cancer screening.  The project also impacted fellow providers and medical staff, who were able to engage with more confidence when educating the public about sun safety, asking about daily sunscreen use, etc.

Alyssa’s project also provided considerable exposure for the PA profession across Central Florida as volunteers identified themselves as PAs, PA students, or aspiring PAs when providing the sun safety education.

This project was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant.

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