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Skin Cancer Expert Dies

Marie-France Demierre, internationally known BU professor

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Marie-France Demierre, 43, a professor of dermatology and medicine at the School of Medicine and director of the Skin Oncology Program in Dermatology at Boston Medical Center, died unexpectedly on April 13 at Boston Medical Center.

Demierre lectured all over the world and was internationally recognized for clinical expertise in the management of melanoma. She was especially dedicated to melanoma prevention and public education regarding safe sun practices, as well as to patient quality of life, writing and lecturing extensively on these topics.

“Dr. Demierre was an exceptionally talented colleague who brought tremendous passion to her work and cared deeply about her patients,” says Rhoda Alani, Herbert Mescon Professor, chair, and dermatologist-in-chief of the department of dermatology. “She was that rare academician who excelled as a clinician, educator, and scholar and was an internationally recognized leader in the management of patients with skin cancers. It is tragic to have lost someone with so much talent and promise so early on in her career.”

For many years, Demierre led the BU Medical Center annual skin cancer screening and volunteered for the annual screening of members of the Boston Red Sox, where she discovered numerous early malignancies and unquestionably saved lives. She also testified many times before the Massachusetts legislature in favor of stricter regulations for the indoor tanning industry and helped document the increase in melanomas among young women who had used tanning beds. She pioneered educational programs for mothers of newborns and young children about the lifelong risks of unprotected sun exposure.

In 2009, Demierre was honored for her efforts to raise awareness of sun safety, skin cancer, and melanomas with the President’s Award from the Women’s Dermatologic Society. She also was honored in 2009 by the Boston Red Sox as a Medical All Star for her tireless community work promoting sun safety awareness and education to children, teens, and their parents.

“Marie-France was a force of nature,” says friend and former colleague Christine Hayes. “She was a vibrant woman who lived life to the fullest. She was a dear friend to the many people who were drawn to her. She was a bright light which has now been extinguished too early.”

Demierre earned a medical degree and received her clinical training in medicine and dermatology at McGill University. She came to BUMC for a skin oncology fellowship in 1995 and was recruited to head the Skin Oncology Program in 1997. As director of the program, she developed and expanded a highly regarded service for care of melanoma patients and a photopheresis program for patients with cutaneous T cell lymphoma and other disorders.

Howard Koh (SPH’95), a former School of Public Health and MED professor and current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services assistant secretary for health, recruited Demierre in 1997. “At a young age, Dr. Demierre rose to become a recognized national leader in skin oncology,” Koh says. “With tremendous energy, she tirelessly cared for patients and sought innovative and life-saving treatments for each and every one of them. We are shocked by her passing, but also enormously grateful for her life of inspiration and passion.”

Demierre leaves her husband, Maurizio Cattaneo, and two children, Francoise and Christian; her mother, Winny Schansman, of Holland; and her brother, Jean-Luc Demierre, of Montreal.

A viewing will be held on Friday, April 16, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Keohane Funeral Home, 785 Hancock Drive, Quincy, Mass. A funeral mass will take place on Saturday, April 17, at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, 227 Sea Street, Quincy, Mass.

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