Dr. Gioconda Gaudiano
Republic of Panama
“In 2015 I was awarded the Social Responsibility in Dermatology award by L’Oréal.
Not only was this a huge honor but the award enabled me to continue helping the Kuna Indians. This award opened a pathway for me to work on neglected tropical diseases and to give aid to populations that have been left behind and forgotten.
The award was a platform to raise awareness and enlist other organizations to bring aid. I continue to provide mobile clinics for skin cancer removal, and provide assistance to those who need it.
With the funds from the award I enlisted the help of a renowned Albino specialist to work on a project to improve the Albino’s vision and help young Albino students see better and improve their chances to succeed at school.
Every trip is a struggle, logistically, with health risks such as malaria, dengue, zika and chikungunya, and yet with every visit I became more aware of different dermatological issues, not just skin cancers, but problems such as scabies.
Which led me to create a successful program to eradicate scabies in the Kuna Islands and now have been asked by nursing homes in Panama to come and provide help. Through the publicity that the award generated I have been referred some interesting cases such a as young boy with Xeroderma Pigmentoso. He was unable to get the care he needed and now I am responsible for his treatment and well being.
The award propelled me and gave me the opportunity to be able to create new programs, reach more people and inspired me to keep working for those who are in desperate need of dermatological help.”
Dr. Gaudiano’s awarded initiative provided real, on-the-ground assistance to the 40,000 indigenous people from the Archipelago of San Blas, a region with the highest incidence of albinism in the world. Albinism in humans is a skin condition characterized by the partial or complete absence of color in the skin, hair and eyes. Therefore, albinos are very sensitive to UV light and sun exposure can result in severe skin problems, such as skin cancer. Those affected by the condition usually face discrimination and feel socially excluded.
The aim of this initiative was achieved via mobile surgery clinics that were able to travel to the Archipelago of San Blas – a community that often shuns medical treatment and avoids protective measures against skin cancer. The project team offered free consultations and subsequent medical treatment, as well as education and means of sun protection. Another important aspect was an anti-bullying campaign in schools.
Through hard work and consultations with the indigenous chiefs to gain support for the program, since the project’s start in 2009 there has been a visible change in behavior of the people from a community that is guided by ancient and rigid rules and beliefs. Local people learned to trust the initiative and even began reaching out for help; such as being treated in their own homes and asking for assistance in the case of bullying of an albino child.
The prize money was planned to be used to develop an ongoing communication campaign as well as other measures, to continue to purchase sun protection measures, and hire a doctor specialized in albinism to conduct workshops.
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