By Wendy Sarubbi | November 13, 2014 2:27 pm

Nearly 100 walkers and runners gathered on the front lawn of the UCF College of Medicine November 8 to help fight the fastest growing cancer in the country. Orlando’s first annual Miles for Melanoma 5K raised more than $14,000 for the Melanoma Research Foundation.

Medical students in the Dermatology Interest Group (DIG) brought the inaugural walk to Medical City. “I wanted to do something that would not only raise awareness of melanoma, but would also bring people to our College of Medicine and the new Medical City,” DIG co-president and fourth-year student Suzanna Lewis said. She and co-president Esther Kim from the class of 2017 organized the walk that included an opportunity for participants to get skin cancer screenings by specialists from Central Florida’s own, Advanced Dermatology.

“People don’t realize that something very small can be deadly, that’s why public awareness is very important,” said dermatologist Dr. Ray Ramirez, who was on hand for the skin exams. He wore a duck visor throughout his time at the walk, explaining, “It’s the idea on the ‘ugly duckling,’ the unusual thing that if you catch it early, you can possibly save a life.” Participants crowded around the Advanced Dermatology tent to have moles and other suspicious marks checked. “Being here in Orlando, there’s obviously a lot of sun exposure,” DIG Member and second-year medical student Renee Domozych said as she observed her classmate Robby Pride, as he got his skin checked. “Sometimes skin just gets overlooked, so it’s nice to have a trained physician to take a look at anything you may be concerned about.” Pride said.

As the 5K kicked off, runners and walkers from the college and the community made their way around the course, trekking past the Orlando VA Medical Center, Nemours Children’s Hospital, and the Lake Nona Town Center, which is under construction on Lake Nona Boulevard. The race ended back at the College of Medicine. Medical students led the pack, winning first place in the men’s and women’s divisions. Second-year student Ryan Burkholder, finished in first place overall with a time of 19:26:8. Classmate Renee Domozych was not far behind, with a time of 19:55:0.

While some participants raced for the finish line, others walked at their own pace, some carrying signs in memory of loved ones. Team names like “Grandpa’s Butterflies,” and “For the Colonel” honored people who had perished from melanoma, which causes nearly 10,000 deaths a year. “It’s nice to have an event like this where people can participate and continue on the cause, even after they’ve lost someone to this disease—so that one day, we can find a cure.” Kim said.

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