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Heather Oda and her grandmother

Last fall, Heather Oda was flipping through the pages of the October issue of People Magazine until one article grabbed her attention.

“I read that the actor Hugh Jackman had been treated for skin cancer three times,” says Heather, Fiscal Office Specialist for the Department of Public Works Fiscal Services in Redwood City. “I thought, ‘Wow, three times.’ Not just one time, but three.”

It seemed like the perfect time to introduce the idea of a sun safety program to the County’s Employee Suggestions STARS Awards program through the 2014 Yammer group. John Maltbie, County Manager, had recently invited all County employees to submit their innovative ideas to improve efficiencies or effectiveness, so Heather did just that.

Thanks to her winning idea, we have partnered with Sutter Health to introduce the new DermaScan Sun Damage Screening program this summer. Although not a skin cancer screening, DermaScan can identify areas of the face that show the most sun damage and which areas are recommended to be checked by a medical professional.

What is it like to know that your suggestion is paving the way for the DermaScan Sun Damage program?
Pretty good. I feel validated. It also feels like these ideas are valuable to the County, and I feel valued, too. My coworkers even think the program is pretty cool. They want to participate.

What particularly resonated with you when you read the article on Hugh Jackman?
I realize that we’re all vulnerable. We take our skin for granted because we don’t think about it until we’re paying for it. I didn’t use to put sunscreen on my skin, but now I do. I have more freckles and spots on my face now, so I just want to be cautious.

I think about my grandmother who protected her skin very well. She would always wear sunscreen and then cover her skin, wear a hat, and put gloves over her hands. She protected her skin so well that she didn’t even have one wrinkle at 92 years old!

What changes are you making now to protect your skin?
I started wearing sunscreen regularly. Now I keep a bottle on my desk and at home so that it’s easier for me to apply it. I don’t always do it, but now I tell myself that right when I think about it, I’ll do it before I do anything else. This is one of my goals for the summer. Otherwise it won’t happen!

Does skin cancer feel like a personal cause to you?
I don’t have any relatives who’ve had it, but I personally know some people who have removed parts of their skin because of it. It’s also important to know that heat stroke can happen, too, whether on the job or at a sporting event. I know someone who had elevated temperature in his body and had to change his work responsibilities because of it. I’ve also witnessed someone else collapsing at a sporting event because he was dehydrated and standing in direct sunlight.

What are your goals for summer?
I am going to run The Giant Race in August where the proceeds will go to Project Open Hand. One of my goals this summer is to prepare for it by training every Sunday.


Heather earned a total of two commendations from the Board of Supervisors and two $100 checks for submitting the winning ideas for the 2015 and 2011 Employee Suggestions STARS Awards programs. In 2011, she was awarded for her idea to have Countywide paperless invoicing. She has been involved in several Wellness programs, including the Wellness Rewards program, Blood Drive, and Employee Softball, Volleyball, and Bowling Tournaments.

A recent article was published earlier this year in People Magazine featuring Hugh Jackman going through a fourth skin cancer removal. Today, he continues to be a celebrity voice for skin cancer awareness.

This is your last chance to register for the Summer Meltdown Weight Loss Program! Weigh-ins are scheduled at various locations and times from June 29 to July 3. Participants are invited to join the Summer Meltdown 2015 Yammer Group!