June 27, 2018
Summer is officially here! While it’s been warm for a while, I now can say definitively that my favorite season is upon us. I love the abundance of colorful landscapes, long days and hot temperatures. The smell of flowers, the beach, campfires, sunblock lotion and s’mores are some of my all-time favorite scents. And oh, that blissful feeling of the warm sun on my face is something I crave all year long.
Maybe it’s because I was born in June, but I’ve always loved the season. As a kid, I’m not sure I ever came inside during summer vacation. I spent hours in the pool, riding my bike, playing hide-and-seek, reading books on the back porch or simply lying on a towel in the driveway after swimming. I can practically smell the wet concrete and feel the sun on my back just thinking about it. Camping trips meant more time outside from sunup to sundown – and often late into the night.
Back then I had super blond hair that bleached almost white in the summer sun. And while I have pretty pale skin, I never really got a sunburn but instead turned a deep, chestnut brown. (That Coppertone baby in the old ads? That might as well have been me.) While sunburn was always worrisome (my sister and my mom were especially susceptible) and while we used lotion, back then we weren't really aware of the serious long-term dangers of the sun on our skin. I’m sure at one point in my ridiculous teen years I even slathered up with baby oil.
However, now we know that while the sun might feel amazing, the damage it can do is a serious concern. In fact, there are roughly 76,000 new cases a year in the United States of the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma. Roughly 10,000 people die each year from the disease. And it can happen to anyone, regardless of age, sun exposure, skin color or gender. Even today, I was reminded via Facebook that a high school friend’s sister had passed away at a far too young age from the disease.
And while it’s important that we all take care of ourselves by covering up, wearing sunblock and doing regular skin checks, it’s also important that researchers continue their quest to find a cure for the disease.
This past weekend, MSU’s College of Human Medicine hosted an event in Grand Rapids created to raise money for skin cancer awareness and research. The annual Gran Fondo cycling event gives riders, including Sparty, a chance to race through the streets while raising needed research dollars.
Since the event began, it has raised more than $810,000 and funded several promising skin cancer studies, including research on a new drug that stops the spread of melanoma by 90 percent.
A couple of my talented colleagues, Ellen and Chris, took a Spartan day trip to check out the race and document the event through real-time social media and a produced video. Check out the MSUTODAY FEATURE: Moving skin cancer research forward, to see the finished product and learn more. Also, how can you not want to see Sparty ride a bike?
This is just one of a series of Spartan day trips planned for the summer and beyond that will highlight more of the cool stuff MSU researchers, alumni and students are doing across the state. Keep an eye out for them by following along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram using #MSUDayTrips.
The day trips were inspired by the Great State Road Trip our team took last year. That trip included a stop in Flint to highlight some of the partnerships and work Spartans were doing in the city. The stop featured a short piece on public health expert Rick Sadler, who does his own cycling – hosting the Edible Flint Food Garden tour by bike.
Sadler, an assistant professor in the College of Human Medicine, has been mapping areas of Flint as related to food access and healthy options. Check out the short video FACULTY VOICE: Medical geographer, to learn more about his important work. He also just published a study about junk food in poorer, urban areas.
I don’t think Meron Meshesha has done all her traveling by bike, but she does consider herself a nomad given the path she’s taken from Ethiopia to Flint, where she is a student in the MSU College of Human Medicine. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Kind of a nomad, to learn more about her and what her experience has taught her about her future goals.
I love nothing more than hopping on my bike for a long, meandering ride in the summer sun. No matter where I’m going or how I get there, it’s the journey itself that I enjoy the most. But eventually, there’s an end goal to meet, and even when I’m sweating and my heart is racing, I’m always determined to reach the finish line, even if it’s one I made up in my head.
It’s probably the Spartan in me – we always take time to look around the world and appreciate it, but we never let anything stop us from moving forward and reaching that end goal. Whether riding a bike, finishing medical school, helping communities find food security, discovering a cure for skin cancer or making tomorrows better, Spartans are along for the ride. Spartans Will.
Photo by Kurt Stepnitz