From humble beginnings 30 years ago, the Skin and Cancer Foundation has grown to be the largest organisation of its type in the world.
By Nikki Stefanoff. Photography by Marija Ivkovic.
Chris Arnold is passionate about healthcare. As Executive Director of the Melbourne-based Skin and Cancer Foundation Inc, his seat on a number of boards, such as BioGrid Australia, and his work as Chairman of the UNESCO and WHO (World Health Organisation) affiliated Global Variome Ltd, Arnold is someone who most certainly walks the talk.
His belief in the provision of quality healthcare for all is apparent, as is his commitment to working philanthropically and with a community focus.
“Melbourne has been good to me over my career,” he says. “And while I believe that it’s important to give 100 percent to the day job, giving something back to the people of Australia is integral to my belief system. It’s what I strive for in all I do on a personal level and it’s the core principle of the work we do here at the Skin and Cancer Foundation.”
In 2017 the Skin and Cancer Foundation will celebrate its 30th year. “We’ve come a long way,” Arnold laughs. “I started working here seven years ago, but the Foundation itself began in the 80s amid rumours circulating that the Government was stopping the funding used to train dermatologists in public hospitals. In response, a group of 37 Victoria-based dermatologists got together and each chipped in $1000 to set it up. Thirty years later we have an annual turnover of $7 million.”
It’s not only the turnover that’s impressive: what the Foundation does is extraordinary and rare. It is one of only three of its kind in the world. “We are the largest diversified dermatology facility in the southern hemisphere,” says Arnold. “The National Skin Centre in Singapore and the Charité hospital in Berlin are larger and, unlike the Foundation, supported by governments. We are all different but what we all have in common is that we’re each supporting our country’s dermatologists the best way we can, through clinics, research and education.”
As the name suggests, Skin and Cancer Foundation Inc is focused on supporting those who suffer from skin conditions such as psoriasis, as well as people dealing with melanoma. This includes early detection.
“We are a not-for-profit organisation. Our goal is to always be supporting the general public and Australia’s health practitioners, something we do in a number of different ways,” Arnold explains. “We operate 28 subspeciality clinics in dermatology and six surgical theatres run by 53 dermatologists, eight plastic surgeons, an oral mucosal specialist, a psychologist and a psychiatrist, backed by highly skilled nursing and administrative teams.
As well as this, the Foundation conducts professional education sessions for dermatologists and registrars, masterclasses for those treating psoriasis patients with biologic drugs as well as workshop training to upskill general practitioners and nurses in skin health.
The Foundation runs a comprehensive monthly education program for dermatologists and registrars. The program is funded by untied grants, meaning that pharmaceutical companies have no say in what’s on the agenda or who speaks. With generous support from the Macquarie Foundation, sessions are now webcast to dermatologists and registrars across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.