Telluride Med Center: Free Skincare Clinic 3/14

Telluride Med Center: Free Skincare Clinic 3/14

Saturday, March 14 marks 3rd annual Gary Wright Memorial Free Skin Cancer Screening Clinic. 8 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Sheridan Opera House. Free. First come, first served. For more information visit 


One in five Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of their lifetime. Living at altitude puts us all at even higher risks. Michelle Curry Wright, whose husband Gary died of melanoma, knows this all too well.

“It’s easy to let years slide without getting your skin screened, but I don’t recommend it,” said Curry Wright, who hopes to see a lot of local faces at the upcoming Gary Curry Wright Memorial Free Skin Cancer Screening Clinic.

On Saturday, March 14, Dr. Scott Wickless, formerly of Durango dermatology, along with support staff and Montrose Dermatology will offer free skin cancer screenings at the Sheridan Opera House, from 8 a.m. – 12p.m. The aim is to raise awareness about skin cancer and its prevention.

Gary Wright moved to Telluride in 1978, where he spent his life outdoors, skiing, climbing, kayaking, and working as a painting contractor. “His fair complexion took a beating every day,” said Curry Wright. Over the years, he had skin checks and precancerous lesions burnt off, but ultimately a growth turned into melanoma. Wright underwent two surgeries, but the cancer recurred on his spine. Depite neurosurgery, rehabilitation, and radiation, Wright lost his 17-month battle with melanoma skin cancer in 2011.


At the third annual Gary Wright Memorial Free Skin Cancer Screening Clinic, Dr. Wickless will screen for three types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. According to Dr. Wickless, over 100 people attended the last Skin Cancer Screening Clinic, an effort that identified suspicious lesions in approximately 10% of the patients.

Eric Johnson, nurse practitioner and Primary Care Practice Manager at the Telluride Medical Center, 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.” 

Individuals with blonde or red hair, freckles and a history of chronic sun exposure, sunburns or tanning bed use, and those with melanoma in the family are at greater risk for melanoma.

In its early stages, melanoma can be treated with surgical removal, and is often first found by regular skin screenings. “Some melanoma cancers show up on non-sun exposed areas,” said Johnson. “And with melanoma especially, it’s important to catch it early.”

Though in recent years, newer types of immunotherapy and targeted therapies have shown a great deal of promise in treating advanced melanomas, still, the disease still takes approximately 80,000 lives a year in the U.S. alone.

This year, sponsors are encouraging people to come early to the Sheridan Opera House to ensure a screening. “We can see about 100 people,” says Curry Wright.

The event is first come, first served.

The idea to host skin cancer clinic came to Curry Wright in the months following her husband’s passing as a way to remember him, raise awareness, and to help detect cancers early. This year’s Gary Wright Memorial Free Skin Cancer Screening Clinic is sponsored by the Wright family, Telluride Medical Center, Sheridan Arts Foundation, Apotheca Pharmacy, Mountainfilm, Welcome to Telluride Vacation Rentals, Dr. Scott Wickless and Montrose Dermatology.

Screenings are free, though donations will be accepted, sunscreen will be sold, and there will be a drawing for a Mountainfilm pass to raise funds.

“We want to ensure we can hold the event in years to come, and we want to get as many people as screened each year as possible,” said Curry Wright.

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