Geisel Medical Student Leads Skin Cancer Prevention Efforts

About two years ago, Jamie Karch, then a registered nurse at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) and second-year medical student at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, discovered a resource that would prove invaluable in her efforts to promote skin cancer prevention and UV safety education at Dartmouth and surrounding communities.

Like other student members of Geisel’s Dermatology Interest Group (DIG), for which she served as director of community outreach, Karch had been alarmed to learn that New Hampshire and Vermont rank among the top five states with the highest rates of skin cancer in the U.S.

“I’d been doing research on what some other campuses were doing to promote healthy skin practices and that’s when I came across the Skin Smart Campus Initiative. I thought Dartmouth, with its emphasis on healthy communities, would be an ideal candidate for it,” explains Karch.

Jamie Karch
Jamie Karch MED '24

She began to develop collaborations with key stakeholders—such as the Vermont Taking Action Against Cancer (VTAAC) skin cancer taskforce, the Vermont Department of Health, the Department of Dermatology at DHMC, and Dartmouth Cancer Center—to raise skin cancer awareness and promote proactive skin care.

Collectively, their efforts have been yielding some impressive results. Recently, Dartmouth earned national recognition as a Skin Smart Campus from the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, joining 23 other medical schools and universities nationally.

“As part of our certification, we’ve signed a memorandum of understanding  between the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention and Dartmouth that says we will not allow sun tanning beds—which significantly increase skin cancer risk—on campus or in off-campus affiliated buildings,” says Karch.

“We’ve also been awarded two sunscreen dispensers, and a third through our work with VTAAC,” she says, “to be used around campus (at the Ledyard Canoe Club and the Dartmouth Skiway) that include two years’ worth of refills, thanks to the Joseph O’Donnell, MD, ’71 Fund for Students. I’ve also created a comprehensive series of educational web pages as a resource to raise awareness about skin cancer and UV exposure risks and encourage positive behavior changes.”

In a separate but related project that involved working with VTAAC, Karch spearheaded efforts to advance legislation that will allow younger students to use sunscreen without a medical prescription.

Sunscreen dispenser“In most states, because sunscreen is an FDA-regulated product, schools have required students to provide a doctor’s prescription to use sunscreen at school,” Karch explains. “However, 30 states have now passed bills to improve accessibility to sunscreen. A similar bill was recently passed in Vermont, which we’re very excited about. We hope to see the same outcome in New Hampshire this October when we present the bill for the next Senate term.”

Having earned her MD degree in May from Geisel, Karch will soon be heading to Boston to complete a one-year transitional internship at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Afterward, she will return to Dartmouth to complete her dermatology residency.

“My goal is to not only continue on with the work we’re doing but to see it grow as well—I envision having many sunscreen dispensers available, not only on Dartmouth campuses but throughout the broader Upper Valley community,” she says.

“With continued support from the dedicated members of DIG, our Department of Dermatology—notably Drs. Alicia Dagrosa and Shane Chapman and Brittany Stark, and our many other collaborators, I’m confident we can reach our goals of reducing barriers to sunscreen application and instilling healthy habits in students and community members.”

For more information about Dartmouth’s Skin Smart initiatives, visit

If you are interested in sponsoring a sunscreen dispenser, contact Dartmouth Hitchcock’s Dermatology Department at