There are marathons and then there’s the Boston Marathon, when the city takes a holiday and 500,000 people line the streets ten-deep to cheer on runners from all over the world. This year, Jeremy Hugh, who was born just north of Boston in Nashua, NH, will be running with them.
“My birthday is within a few days of the marathon and my dad and I always used to go down to watch. I’ve been to I don’t even know how many Boston Marathons, since about age five, all through college at U. Mass, until heading off for med school in New York,” says Hugh, who is a University of Colorado Cancer Center investigator and skin cancer specialist at Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center.
There are two ways to earn an invite to run the Boston Marathon. First, you can be astoundingly fast, running a qualifying time of about three hours for Hugh’s age group; or second, you can fundraise for one of the marathon’s charities. Hugh chose the second option, and maybe it’s not a surprise that he chose to fundraise for IMPACT Melanoma, an organization that raises awareness about the need for sun protection to reduce the risk of skin cancer.
“I’ve been wanting to do it and figured now is a good time. We’re probably going to start a family soon and so now seems like the best time to train. I started looking into it the last couple years and decided to apply this year,” Hugh says.
According to Hugh, melanoma is one of the cancers for which awareness makes a big difference.
“If you get it early enough, it’s not that big of a deal, but if not, there’s a pretty good chance of dying from it. What that means is that awareness is a big deal – it’s something where awareness can have a big impact,” says Hugh, who recently volunteered with the Sun Bus to offer free skin cancer screenings at the Denver Veteran’s Day parade.
Not only does Hugh spend his own time offering free skin cancer screenings and fundraising for IMPACT Melanoma, but he recently wrote a scientific paper using the organization’s data on how the placement of free sunscreen dispensers affects awareness of skin cancer risk and sun-safe behaviors.
“The other thing they do is educate people who do hair or work in nail salons, massage therapists, etc., so if they see something suspicious, they can send people to a dermatologist. Plenty of times in my short career that’s the reason someone with melanoma comes to us,” Hugh says.
If you’re thinking about helping Dr. Hugh raise money for the race, here’s a little something to sweeten the deal: a $25 donation to his team earns entry into a raffle supported by Dr. Hugh’s dermatologist friends (specify if you’d like to be in any of the drawings when you donate!). Prizes include an area of Botox ($300 value), a $300 credit at the cosmetics center, or a vial of Jovederm filler treatment at the CU Boulder Dermatology office ($575 value).
“This was my city growing up, and the marathon is an iconic thing that Boston has,” Hugh says. “I feel lucky to be able to combine this event that has always meant so much to me with my current work in skin cancer. If feels like a real milestone.”