How Block the Blaze Began

The Block the Blaze (formerly the National Melanoma Awareness Project - Spot a Spot, Save a Life) began at UC Irvine School of Medicine as an extension of the Joel Myres Melanoma Awareness Project, which was founded in 2003 by a group of UCI medical students interested in teaching local teens about skin cancer. The program volunteers educated themselves first and then developed a curriculum aimed at a diverse teen population. The project has since expanded rapidly and perhaps more exciting, the project is rapidly gaining national interest. Its adoption is currently underway in Southern California and across the country, and we are actively sharing project materials with all who are interested in joining us.

About Joel Erik Myres

Joel Erik Myres was born on May 21, 1969, and passed away on March 7, 2001 following a courageous and prolonged battle with melanoma. During his lifetime, Joel’s intelligence, goodness, integrity, and remarkable accomplishments inspired the lives and earned the admiration of all who knew him.

Joel was born and raised in San Diego, California; he loved the outdoors and became an Eagle Scout at age thirteen. At age 16, he was first diagnosed with melanoma, after his mother recognized a changing mole on his neck. The melanoma was removed completely, and it did not appear to have spread outside the skin.

Joel went on to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Spain Las Palmas mission of the Canary Islands. He then earned a degree with honors in archaeology and biological anthropology from Brigham Young University. During that time, he also served as the Spanish-Speaking translator on archaeological expeditions to South America. Joel worked on numerous genetic studies of modern and ancient Peruvian populations, including work on the genetic basis for obesity as well as for infant mortality in high altitude areas. Among his work was a genetic analysis of burials at the Royal Tombs of Sipan on the northern coast of Peru, as well as work at the oldest known Christian burial site in Egypt. Joel recorded his academic findings in both English and Spanish. His work was well-recognized and was featured on two documentaries.

In 1997, Joel married the former Natalie Mincek from Florida; the two met during their time at BYU. In 1998, they came to Irvine, where Joel began his time as a medical student at the University of California, Irvine College of Medicine. Here he continued to excel and to touch the hearts and lives of those around him. He completed over two years here and had begun a Fellowship of Pathology when he noticed a lump on his abdomen. The same doctors who were his teachers and role models were heartbroken to discover that the lump represented a metastatic focus of the original melanoma from so many years ago. Joel underwent a heroic battle and aggressive treatment at John Wayne Cancer Institute; between treatments over his last year he and Natalie returned to BYU, where Joel worked as a co-principle investigator and administrator for the BYU Molecular Genealogy Research Group. He continued to work passionately, and had earned a PhD in molecular biology at the time of his death.

Joel loved to read, travel (visiting over twenty countries), fly-fish, and listen to music. His brilliant mind never stopped learning, and he was always eager to share his experiences with others, never failing to impress and delight them with his knowledge, skill and humor. His memory will continue to live on, not only in the hearts of all those touched by him, but also through this project, as his memory impacts countless young teens with the critical message of melanoma prevention and early detection.