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SunSmart5K is a 501(c)(3) non-profit run/walk event created and organized by University of Miami medical students! 

Our History

SunSmart was founded by two amazing former University of Miami medical students, Monika Freiser and Joseph Kaplan.











They combined the idea of bringing access to care with educating our community and instituted these fundamental aspects of our organization through a fun 5K event!  Their enthusiasm and vision continues to fuel future generations of UM medical students organizing SunSmart, an event built around the premise sun safety, skin cancer awareness and heart health.  Here is a message from them about how our organization and event came to be!


Monika and Joe both completed their undergraduate and medical school studies at the University of Miami.  They met as members of Golden Key International Honor Society.  Monika originally came up with the idea of creating a non-profit 5K event to raise funds for the City of Miami Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) Program, which raises money for CPR education and to put AEDs in public locations throughout South Florida.  This was done in honor of Monika's late father, whose life may have been saved had there been an AED nearby.  Our organization's first ever race, called the Valentine's Day 5K, took place in February 2010.  The race underwent a few different name changes over the years before officially being established as the SunSmart 5K.  Monika brought Joe on board as a co-director in 2010 when they were both undergraduate students.  They were working on the 2nd annual race when they found out that a non-profit 5K benefitting the University of Miami's Melanoma Program had been cancelled.  This event was created by Caroline Caperton, a medical student and then resident at UMed.  Monika and Joe reached out about joining forces, which ended up being a pivotal moment in the advancement of our organization.  Undergraduate and medical students began working together on a non-profit 5K event to raise funds for both the PAD Program and Melanoma Program.  Shailee Patel stepped up as a leader and co-director through the medical school and Dermatology Department.  She played an instrumental role in the growth and development of the event, which is attended buy hundreds of participants on an annual basis.  It is an event not only focused on raising money and a great racing experience, but also providing education about public access defibrillation and skin cancer awareness with free skin cancer screenings offered on-site.  These screenings have potentially been lifesaving as there have been several instances where skin cancer was diagnosed at the event.  The event was cancelled for a few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic but was resumed in 2023, where it is expected to reestablish its role as a staple in the South Florida running community.  We look forward to watching SunSmart continue to grow and reach new heights in the years to come!


- Joe and Monika


 Our Mission

Save lives! And we're not being dramatic! Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S.––even when stacked against all other cancers combined! Although more than 2 people in the U.S. die of skin cancer every hour, there's hope: when skin cancer is detected early, there is a 99% survival rate!*

We fulfill our mission through education and research!


  • Education = Power!

    • We believe in empowering our community through education about skin cancer and proper sunscreen usage. In addition to providing educational information, we provide free skin cancer screenings performed by our very own UM dermatologists!


  • Research = Our Future!

    • It is through research that more efficient diagnostic tools and better treatments become possible. That's why our event proceeds are donated to the University of Miami’s Dr. Philip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery and Sylvester Cancer Center's groundbreaking skin cancer research.

*Statements supported by the Skin Cancer Foundation

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