Making a Mountain of Impact out of a Mole Machine

Donation brings state-of-the-art skin cancer screening to UTSW Dermatology Department

Bill Shaddock’s first experience with UT Southwestern Medical Center could not have been more routine.

He arrived at the clinic to receive a dermatological consultation and have a mole examined. Minutes later, he left the facility an ardent fan.

“I received excellent medical care,” he said. “I thought it was a really special place, and I wanted to express my gratitude in a tangible way.”

The owner-partner of real estate and title group The Shaddock Companies donated $85,000 to purchase a machine with the potential to improve the high level of care future patients would receive from UT Southwestern’s Department of Dermatology.

FotoFinder Bodystudio Automated Total Body Mapping system
FotoFinder Bodystudio Automated Total Body Mapping system combines a digital camera, monitor, and computer to aid physicians with skin imaging on a mobile platform. Provided by FotoFinder Systems

“Honestly, I was a bit shocked to learn that UT Southwestern might not have all the equipment it really needed to care for its patients,” said Mr. Shaddock, who hails from the small, East Texas town of Orange.

The equipment in question is the FotoFinder Bodystudio Automated Total Body Mapping system, a new technology for identifying moles and other skin lesions that could be potentially cancerous.

Stephanie Savory, M.D., an Assistant Professor of Dermatology who leads UT Southwestern’s Pigmented Lesions and Melanoma Clinic has been tracking the technology’s capabilities for a while now.

“In truth, I had my eye on this FotoFinder for several years,” she said.

The FotoFinder system includes a sophisticated camera and computer on a mobile stand. Within minutes, physicians can use the device to take digital photos of a patient’s body from all sides. The device then uses software to automatically stitch the images together and create a surface map of the patient’s skin.

It’s the same technique Dr. Savory has used in her clinic for years. The difference is that FotoFinder System's technology is much, much faster.

“It would take me at least 20 minutes with my store-bought Nikon to take a baseline set of full-body photos. FotoFinder can do it in three minutes – and do it for every patient visit,” Dr. Savory said. The turnaround time for creating the full-body image is faster as well.

FotoFinder Bodystudio Automated Total Body Mapping system interface
The FotoFinder Bodystudio Automated Total Body Mapping system uses artificial intelligence to identify moles, prioritizes them based on factors of concern, and displays them onscreen for a physician to review during the examination. Provided by FotoFinder Systems

Time saved translates into better patient care. In the past, Dr. Savory would take a baseline set of patient photographs once every ten years. Now, she uses the FotoFinder device to take a new set of photos every time a patient visits.

During subsequent exams, FotoFinder Bodystudio automatically compares current and past images to detect changes in the appearance of moles and skin lesions. Changes in size or color can indicate potential malignancy.

“The vital aspect of FotoFinder is that it will detect changes in the evolution of a lesion, possibly indicating an early-stage melanoma,” Dr. Savory said. “For patients with a lot of moles, this machine will save them from additional scarring and other complications that might arise from repeated biopsies of moles that appear atypical.”

Stephanie Savory
Dr. Stephanie Savory. Brian Coats/UT Southwestern Medical Center

The device also helps physicians prioritize which lesions need their attention.

"After comparing photos from prior sets of patient visits, FotoFinder uses artificial intelligence to identify lesions and moles that have changed and then rank them from most concerning change to least concerning. So, when I see a patient, I can do my routine full body skin exam as usual, but make sure to closely examine the worrisome moles that FotoFinder has flagged,” Dr. Savory said.

It’s a stark change from the previous standard of care.

“In the old days,” Dr. Savory said, “I would use a patient's set of full body photographs and examine, mole by mole, to determine whether an individual lesion was growing or changing. If someone has hundreds of moles, that might take up to an hour. With FotoFinder, I’m still making the interpretation of individual lesions, but the device helps ensure that I’m looking where I need to look. It keeps me from missing a cancerous mole among dozens of benign lesions.”

FotoFinder Systems allows Dr. Savory to do her detective work more efficiently, giving her time back to treat additional patients.

“I will be able to see more patients and do more high-risk melanoma screenings, increasing the capacity of my clinic,” she said.

For Mr. Shaddock, the potential for his gift to create opportunities for UT Southwestern physicians to help more patients is a great return on his philanthropic investment.

“I was happy to hear how much valuable time this new machine could add, allowing Dr. Savory to see more patients and save more lives,” he said.

FotoFinder Bodystudio is expected to arrive at UT Southwestern in mid-July. For Dr. Savory and her team, the gift’s impact is already transformative.

“Bill Shaddock’s gift has been game-changing for my clinic,” Dr. Savory said. “I am extremely grateful to him for allowing us to take this huge step forward in treating high risk patients. His gift lets us stay on top of the latest technology as it assists our patients.”