An Albuquerque couple has donated $500,000 to The University of New Mexico’s Department of Dermatology to improve skin cancer care and awareness in the state.
Jim and Ellen King worked with the UNM Foundation to establish The Jim and Ellen King Professor of Dermatology professorship, an endowed position.
The department recently held a ceremony to recognize their contribution.
“This gift is a tremendous gesture toward the future of our dermatology care in our state,” says Aimee Smidt, MD, chair of the Department of Dermatology.
This year, more than 87,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma and around 9,700 are expected to die from it, according to the American Cancer Society. About 500 New Mexicans will receive a melanoma diagnosis, meanwhile, and 70 will likely die from it.
The Kings, partial owners of Bradbury Stamm Construction, have also supported other UNM programs. But for Ellen, a survivor of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – advancing skin cancer awareness is a personal cause.
“It felt like a really big pimple,” she says in describing the cancerous mole discovered by her hair stylist Susan Lopez more than 15 years ago. “It didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t going away.”
Her skin cancer was initially misdiagnosed as a stage four melanoma, but further tests concluded it was a less-serious stage two lesion .
“I was very lucky it had not spread by the time I got it off,” Ellen says. “That’s the only reason I’m still alive.”
The donation will enhance the department’s education, clinical care and research in melanoma and boost skin cancer awareness in local communities.
“We’ll be more successful in recruiting and retaining a dedicated faculty member in melanoma and pigmented lesions,” Smidt says. “We’ll also offer continuity of care to patients with melanoma.”
“I hope this can be the beginning of a strong tradition of community involvement and support of our mission,” Smidt says.