Ashley Wysong, M.D., MS, Class of 2008
Director of Dermatologic Surgery, University of Southern California
As a Howard Hughes Medical Fellow, I was selected as an Academy of Achievement Honor Delegate at the 2008 International Achievement Summit in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. I was a fourth year medical student at the time of the Summit, and had no idea how integral my fellow delegates and the Academy members would be at such a pivotal time in my life. I was inspired to define my future in a way that would be meaningful to me and would “ignite my passions, rather than doing what is expected,” as suggested by Ken Griffin, the first speaker of the Summit. I went on to graduate as valedictorian of my class at Duke University School of Medicine and continued my residency training at Stanford University in the Department of Dermatology. There, I found the words of W.S. Merwin constantly challenging me to “do that which only you can be doing,” to find my larger purpose and unique place in the world.
As a former NCAA student athlete, I wanted to find a way to combine my passion for athletics with my growing expertise in cutaneous oncology and skin cancer prevention. Enlisting the help of several colleagues at Stanford, we founded SUNSPORT, an educational outreach program dedicated to reducing skin cancer and photodamage in NCAA athletes. I authored the first medical research study quantifying the amount of time spent by the average NCAA athlete in training and competing outdoors, as well identifying predictors and barriers to sunscreen use. Using these data, I worked closely with NCAA leadership to include “sun safety information” as a topic in the 2012-13 NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook. We had officially put sun safety on the radar for NCAA athletes, coaches, physicians, and trainers! Coming full circle with my athletic career, I was recently inducted into the University of Missouri Athletics Hall of Fame. It was truly an unforgettable weekend—over 75 coaches, teammates, family members, and fans from several stages of my life came to cheer me on and celebrate. I was reminded again of the words of Bill Russell: “We are all the result of a team effort Many conspired to get us where we are.” I also remember reminiscing that weekend about something Naomi Judd said at the Summit on the importance of “knowing our own stories and history…” that is, knowing where we came from, “…before we can truly decide on where we are going.”
So where am I going? I am now finishing my clinical fellowship in Mohs Surgery and Procedural Dermatology at Scripps Clinic. In July, I will officially begin my medical career as Assistant Professor and Director of Mohs and Dermatologic Surgery at the University of Southern California (USC). I could not be more excited! At Los Angeles County Hospital, I will be honored to treat and serve people from all walks of life with a variety of cutaneous conditions such as skin cancer, burns or traumatic scars, varicose veins and leg ulcers. At Keck Hospital of USC and the Norris Cancer Center, I plan to build a multidisciplinary care team for high-risk skin cancer patients, as well as to continue my sun safety outreach to athletes and school-aged children. Last, but certainly not least, a significant amount of my energy will be spent training the next generation of dermatologists; we have ten residents and countless medical students who come through the department. I hope to mentor and challenge them in the true Academy of Achievement spirit, to know themselves fully, to follow their passions, and to “do that which only they can be doing.”
Happy 50th Anniversary to the Academy, and thank you for all you have done, and continue to do, in my life!