Expanding the Network

The MRA approach encourages others to join the fight, too—not as competitors but, as allies. Take Tracy Callahan. Tracy was a registered research nurse when she was diagnosed with melanoma. In total, she has been diagnosed four times, though all thankfully caught early. Inspired by the name “Polka Dot Mama,” given to her by her two boys, Tracy began to network with survivors and skin care organizations around the country. A few months in, Tracy got the idea to create her own nonprofit called the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation ( Only she didn’t know where to start.

What she knew was that she had a voice and she wanted to use it. The message? Melanoma prevention, awareness, education, and research. Tracy spoke with her contacts at Duke University who encouraged her to pick up the phone and call MRA. Tracy spoke with MRA’s President & CEO and its Chief Science Officer. “I told them my idea for a nonprofit and from that moment they embraced me with open arms,” says Tracy. “They asked how they could help.”

In addition to the critical work she’s doing to educate her community about sun safety and the importance of skin checks, Tracy has also helped advance the science by donating to MRA’s research efforts. Since 2016, Tracy and the Polka Dot Mama Foundation have donated $40,000 to support MRA’s research program, a donation that will go directly to research funded through MRA’s expert peer-review process, with no admin or development expenses reducing the impact of her donation.

“The more I do research, the more I can tell you that there is no other organization I know of that you can pick up the phone and talk to the Chief Science Officer about your unique case. It may seem small, but for a patient, it’s huge,” says Tracy.

Tracy’s leadership is not only felt in her community, but also on the national stage. She recently helped MRA launch the Melanoma > Exchange online community as one of its four inaugural Community Leaders.

Tracy Callahan

“If I can make a difference in someone’s life by sharing my journey, then these scars will be given purpose,”

Tracy Callahan
Founder of Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation