MIA Co-Medical Director’s Story

Professor Scolyer and Professor Long are on the front line in the fight against melanoma leading the research effort to find new treatment options.

MIA’s Co-Medical Directors, Professor Richard Scolyer and Professor Georgina Long, are marching so everyone survives.

Professor Richard Scolyer chose melanoma as his speciality to make a difference.

‘I got into melanoma because Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma, it’s a common problem in young people and I wanted to make a difference in the lives of people with melanoma.

‘Melanoma destroys patient’s lives and the lives of those around them - their family, their loved ones and their support network. Seeing people suffering is tough.’

For Professor Georgina Long, it was a culmination of experiences and the drive to change outcomes that put melanoma in her sights.

‘My mother’s mantra was ‘making a difference to many’ and melanoma impacts so many in Australia.

‘Melanoma was a disease with no effective drug therapies. Becoming a melanoma specialist would therefore be a huge opportunity to effect change.’

Now Co-Medical Directors of Melanoma Institute Australia, Professor Scolyer and Professor Long are on the front line in the fight against melanoma. They lead the research effort to find new treatment options, and as a result, survival rates have surged.

‘Knowing that, 10 years ago, advanced melanoma patients would almost universally die of their disease helps us to put in perspective the amazing work that we have both led and been a part of. To be a part of that journey is amazing,’ says Professor Scolyer.

Professor Long adds, ‘We were dealing with the worst of the worst outcomes, but because of that there was such a huge opportunity to make a difference. We’ve seen statistics like 5% of people alive at 5 years increase to 50% of people alive at 5 years.

‘But we want zero deaths from melanoma, and we won’t stop until we’ve reached that goal.’

Both Professor Scolyer and Professor Long are dedicated to facing the challenge head on.

‘I am incredibly positive, optimistic and hopeful that we will get there. I know the entire team at MIA is just as passionate, and with that passion we will get to zero deaths in my lifetime,’ says Professor Long.

‘We’re seeing that what we’ve discovered in melanoma is now being used to help with many other types of cancer. We’re leading the way here, and we have a responsibility to keep going,’ adds Professor Scolyer.

Throughout the month of March, both Co-Medical Directors attend as many Melanoma Marches as they can.

‘Melanoma March is so important for raising awareness, educating people about prevention and emphasising to people that if we catch melanoma early, it can be cured with surgery.

‘But it’s also a focus for the community. It’s support for patients, their carers, their families and friends. It’s a place to reflect and remember those we’ve lost, to meet other people going through this and to share stories,’ says Professor Scolyer.

‘You go to a March to get fit and healthy, have a wonderful time, meet passionate people, and raise funds for melanoma research that can impact all cancers,’ says Professor Long.

‘Being there allows us to celebrate our successes, get excited for the future, and inspires us to keep moving towards our goal of zero deaths.’

Professor Scolyer agrees. ‘Melanoma March gives us the energy to keep moving forward.’

‘Rome wasn’t built in a day. To get to zero deaths we’ll do that in incremental steps, we continue on that journey every day. I’m confident that we’ll deliver on that goal in my working lifetime.’

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