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Telluride Med Center: Skin Cancer Screening Clinic Honors Telluride Local

 Beth Roberts

Telluride Medical Center

500 W Pacific Ave Box 1229
Telluride, CO 81435
970.729.1700 Cell

Skin Cancer Screening Clinic Honors Telluride Local
The family of Gary Wright, Telluride Medical Center and Durango Dermatology offer free screening at Ah Haa 


Telluride, Colorado (February 16, 2012) Each year there are over one million new cases of skin cancer, people living at altitude are at particularly high risk. On February 25, from 9 – 12p.m., the Gary Wright Memorial Skin Cancer Screening Clinic will offer free screenings for abnormalities that might indicate or lead to skin cancer. 


The clinic honors Gary Wright, who moved to Telluride in 1978. “Gary loved climbing, sailing, skiing and worked jobs that allowed him to spend even more time outside. His fair and freckled skin took a beating,” said his wife, Michelle Curry Wright.


Doctors, Heather and Scott Wickless of Durango Dermatology, will be screening for the three types of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, which are the most common and caused by sun exposure and the primarily genetic and most deadly type, melanoma.


People at highest risk for melanoma skin cancer are those with red hair, blue eyes and green eyes, according to Eric Johnson, Family Nurse Practitioner at the Telluride Medical Center.


Johnson recommends annual skin screenings for everyone living in Telluride. “We are physically closer to the sun, and there is more ultraviolet light. Particularly in the winter, people don’t seem to think about it as much, but our sun exposure is greater because those rays bounce back up from the snow.”


Over the years Wright had skin checks and precancerous lesions burnt off, almost always on his face. The growth that eventually turned into melanoma was on the back of his head.


“Most melanoma cancers show up on non-sun exposed areas,” said Johnson. “And with melanoma especially, it’s important to catch it early.”


“He let it go too long and was unaware until the lab report came back how serious it had become,” said Curry Wright. He underwent two surgeries right away to remove lymph nodes down one side of his neck and opted out of chemical therapies due to their very low success rate and high level of invasiveness. The cancer recurred on his spine and in February of 2011 he underwent neurosurgery, rehabilitation, and radiation. He was slated for a promising clinical trial but developed brain lesions, which prevented him from participating.


On May 1, 2011 Wright lost a battle with melanoma skin cancer.


“It just occurred to me one day out of the blue that a free skin cancer screening is something we could do that would have a physical impact on everyone in the town,” said Curry Wright.


“A lot of Gary’s friends, people he skied with, people in his business, which was painting houses, are horribly exposed to the elements all the time, so especially for them, I would urge them to come and have a free skin check,” said Curry Wright.


The Gary Wright Skin Cancer Screening Clinic is sponsored by the family of Gary Wright, the Telluride Medical Center and Durango Dermatology and will be held at the Ah Haa Art School. Screenings are free, though donations will be accepted.


“It’s something we all think about and worry about, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors,” said Curry Wright. She added, “I hope the free skin clinic will give a lot of people peace of mind.”