“Joe and I practiced together at the same time in the early 1990s,” recalls Dr. Zimmerman, when discussing his friend and colleague Joseph E. Enright, MD. “Joe was a friendly, outgoing guy with a quick wit and a deep devotion to his family and patients. Although we practiced in different departments – he was an internist and I a pulmonologist – we became fast friends.”
Dr. Enright died of malignant melanoma in 1996 when he was just 37. He left behind his wife, Kathy, two young children, and many devastated family members, friends, colleagues, and patients.
“He was the closest person to me who had ever died,” remarks Dr. Zimmerman, “and I wanted to do something in his honor that might help save other lives.”
In 1999, Dr. Zimmerman and his colleagues founded the Enright Melanoma Foundation, dedicated to the memory of Dr. Enright. Dr. Zimmerman served as its founding president until 2002, when he was succeeded by Richard Nelson, MD, another one of Dr. Enright’s early colleagues and the foundation’s current president. Today, nearly 20 years later, the doctor-led nonprofit organization remains committed to fulfilling its mission of raising sun safety awareness and preventing melanoma through education and early detection.
“With skin cancer rates rising, it is imperative that we educate young people and those who influence them about the dangers of overexposure to the sun and ultraviolet radiation,” says Dr. Zimmerman. “Our philosophy is that the sun is meant to be enjoyed…enjoyed while being properly protected, and so our message is Apply Cover Enjoy™.”
Through free online resources, educational presentations, community events, and partnerships with school districts, universities, camps, health and recreation departments, and likeminded foundations and organizations, the Enright Melanoma Foundation has made great strides promoting sun safety awareness to children and adults from New Jersey and beyond. It has earned recognition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its innovative educational efforts and is an active member of the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. More than 4,100 adults and children have become Enright Sun Safety certified via the foundation’s signature multimedia/interactive, online Enright Sun Safety Certification™ programs for kids, teens and adults.
Despite these successes, Dr. Zimmerman states that he and others involved with the Enright Melanoma Foundation will not be content to rest on their laurels until the foundation is to melanoma what the Susan G. Komen Foundation is to breast cancer.
“Everyone in our organization has been touched by melanoma, and that’s what fuels our passion to take this foundation to the next level,” points out Dr. Zimmerman. “Melanoma is preventable, and we are committed to ending its devastating consequences.”