Medical Center helps Capitol crews stay safe in the sun

Each day, Kevin Shaffer reports the daily UV index to his team of grounds and maintenance workers at the state Capitol complex in Harrisburg alongside safety reminders and details of work to be done.

Skin cancer has touched his family, so he understands the importance of sun protection for his crew. Shaffer and his colleagues were excited recently to get cruiser-style sun hats, baseball caps and long-sleeved T-shirts made of breathable, quick-dry fabric with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 50 from the Department of Dermatology at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

The gift was the latest of several the department has made in recent years to help with sun protection efforts across central Pennsylvania.

“We try to get out there and help people,” said Dr. Michael Ioffreda, dermatologist and vice chairman of community health for the Department of Dermatology at Hershey Medical Center. “We see a lot of skin cancer, so if we can help people protect themselves while working outside, that's our goal.”

In the past, the department has given similar gifts to the grounds crew at the Medical Center, the Hershey Country Club and also advised the Milton Hershey School in outfitting their grounds crew. It also provided umbrellas with UPF 50 protection for use by visitors to the Hershey Gardens.

The department installed a shade gazebo at the end of the Eshenour Trail along Middletown Road and provided funds to the borough of Palmyra for a shade gazebo in Fireman's Park. A few years ago, it helped to bring a sunscreen dispenser station to Hersheypark. It also helps with the planting of shade trees around Derry Township.

Michelle Ball, office manager for the Department of Dermatology, said each year the department looks for a new project to add to its existing partnerships. Every spring, it holds a free skin cancer screening event on a Saturday morning that is attended by about 200 people.

“Protecting skin is the most important aspect of what we do,” Ioffreda said. “And the sun is the number one culprit in damaging skin and producing skin cancer, so we want to get that message to people.”

Steve Zeigler, Capitol grounds manager, said this latest partnership came out of a conversation he had with Dr. Jeffrey Miller, chairman of the Department of Dermatology, at a fundraising dinner a while back.

“We don't have a provided uniform, per se, so any clothing we get is wonderful. To get long sleeves with sun protection is just awesome,” he said. “We really appreciate this gift.”

Shaffer said he expects the gear will be well used. “Some might not have gone and spent the money for protective clothing on their own, but this has been provided, so it will be used,” he said. “Now I can say to them ‘Where's your shirt?' ‘Where's your hat?'”

Ioffreda said community health is an important part of the organization's mission. “These are our patients, so it’s good to be building these relationships,” he said. “This is another way we can take care of them.”

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