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Giovanna Melillo M.D. is part of the National Association Against Cancer (known in Spanish as ANCEC) and is the leader of the Skin Cancer Clinic Project, implemented in Veraguas. She has a deep commitment and a clear vision about the needs of health care in the rural communities of Panama. She is one of the participants of the 5th generation of CAHI Fellows.  


Since childhood, Giovanna Melillo M.D. had been part of the National Association Against Cancer, thanks to the initiative of her father, Dr. Melillo, who is a highly-regarded gynecologist, due to his dedication to the battle against cervical cancer.


Originally from Veraguas, Giovanna studied medicine in Panama City, focusing in dermatology with a particular interest in skin cancer prevention. Her project emerged from her concern about the people from Veraguas, who work most of the time under the sun, in agriculture activities, for long hours and without protection. Exposure to the sun is the leading risk factor for skin cancer, which is increasing significantly in the area.


The population in Veraguas is 220,000 people, but they have only two dermatologists in public clinics. Additionally, these specialists must attend the nearby indiegenous community of Ngäbe-Buglë. The attention is insufficient, and the risk for skin cancer is too high.

That is why she opens a clinic for skin cancer detection, which was possible due to the support of the National Association Against Cancer, the Cancer Foundation and Good Neighbors Foundation.


The objective of Giovanna Melillo M.D. is to create a system to inform and educate the population and healthcare workers to promote self-care, prevention, and early diagnosis for adequate treatment of skin injuries. Finally, her vision is to establish a process for patients’ referral to the Cancer Hospital.

“I very much enjoyed the process and what we achieved in the last six months. We made the first workday for dermatology attention in Santiago de Veraguas, with the dermatologist Amelia Martiz, who gave attention to 200 patients. Several skin injuries were diagnosed, and they have been received the required medical care. We received support from many people, dermatologists, laboratories, foundations.”

Melillo is also developing an educational work with general practitioners and nursing staff, to prepare them to identify skin injuries and cancer and to make a proper referral and improve the attention in the rural community of Veraguas. This scheme is generating good results, and Melillo is looking for increasing the frequency of these informative and educative sessions.  

“Through talks and conferences, all the general practitioners, including me, have been benefited with the information and knowledge about risk factors and main skin injuries. We have made conferences with dermatologists, meetings with the education staff of the Health Minister. I visualize that this could be a national initiative, that the educational process expands the range to the children, at the schools, and have a positive impact in all the population, to consider the risk factors and prevent skin cancer.”


Giovanna Melillo M.D. says that the experience in the CAHI Fellows Program has been advantageous because of the technical learnings and the development of a new vision about how to organize and develop the project in her community.

“CAHI gave us management tools that we did not receive in the medical faculty, and also allowed me to develop leadership and innovation skills. This knowledge has been essential to moving forward, starting with space to a working attention center, where all is ready for the reception and attention to the people.”

She is grateful with all the indications received from Cancer Foundation and the Cancer Hospital, for the regulations and normative compliance, to guarantee the quality of the attention.

“Every month and every day is not only about injuries identification and skin cancer diagnosis but is about bring orientation and education and create a culture of prevention. We are also creating statistics through the registration of the patients to measure our success and implement changes in our procedures. I learned that in CAHI.”

For her, the CAHI Fellows Network have been crucial in the learning and project development process. Especially the opportunity to learn from others experiences and stories, feel the support of the group to face the challenges in the implementation of the project, the confidence generated between all the Fellows with the security of the impact they can achieve in their countries and the region.

“I am surprised by the people who want to support and give time and resources to the good causes we propose. Many people can work in favor of good causes. All these experiences have an impact on my vision, now I know we are not alone in this path for health care, and that if I start in my community, all can change. That is why I want to bring more people to CAHI because now I know we can make more and produce positive change.”

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