The winners of the eighth annual D.C. Public Health Case Challenge were announced on October 29, 2021. The challenge aims to promote interdisciplinary, problem-based learning around a public health issue of importance to the Washington, D.C. community.

The challenge topic was “Addressing Infectious Diseases Using a Population Health Approach: Prevention and Control of Bacterial Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in Young Adults 18–24.” One in five people in the United States had an STI on any given day in 2018, an estimated total of nearly 68 million infections.

STIs have been on the rise over the last decade. The National Academies recently explored the causes for this increase and potential solutions in the 2021 report Sexually Transmitted Infections: Adopting a Sexual Health Paradigm. The 2021 challenge to the competing teams builds off the findings from that report.

The teams from D.C.-area universities — each with up to six members from at least three disciplines — were given two weeks to develop a solution to this complex problem with a hypothetical $2.5 million budget to be used during a five-year span. The teams presented their solutions to a panel of expert judges, and teams were evaluated on the interdisciplinary nature of their response, feasibility of implementation, creativity, and practicality.

The 2021 Grand Prize winner was the team from the Uniformed Services University. Team members Tonay Flattum-Riemers, Remle Scott, Patricia Theard, Jaime Mencke, Amanda Dao, and Elizabeth Graydon (faculty advisers: Weyinshet Gossa, Carolyn Reimann, and Christopher Snitcher) proposed a solution called DSTIGMA.  Their intervention was designed both to address insufficient use of existing services, and to reach groups inadequately served by existing systems of care, such as the inmate population in the D.C. Department of Corrections. The team also highlighted the need for shifting stigmatizing language and narratives about STIs and for training care providers and community health workers to improve communication and cultural competence.

Three additional prizes were also awarded:

Practicality Prize: The Georgetown University team’s solution, SHAPE DC, included community health worker engagement, telehealth education, and a mobile clinic. The proposal aimed to equip community members as advocates; train providers on cultural competency and LGBTQ+ health; and ensure empathetic STI care. The solution gave special attention to transportation challenges and sought to provide private van services to help patients access care. (Team members: Carolina Andrada, Cat Gardiner, Chloé Jammes, Miller Richmond, Agrata Sharma, and Elaine Chen; faculty adviser: Anne Rosenwald)

Harrison C. Spencer Interprofessional Prize: The American University team’s solution, SexifyDC Initiative, was designed to improve access to gonorrhea and chlamydia screening services as part of preventive care, in collaboration with DC Health and GetCheckedDC, which offers in-home and walk-up testing options for District residents. Proposed approaches included an app, mobile testing, and peer facilitators as resources for sexual health education and STI information. (Team members: Olivia Gonyea, Yongyi Lu, Anita Novillo, Jessie Sadel, Aria Wanek, and Kai Wasson; faculty adviser: Melissa Hawkins)

Wildcard Prize: The Howard University team’s solution focused on the lack of patient-centered and customer-service oriented care for STIs. Their proposal was titled “Talk to Me” and consisted of development of a comprehensive health app named UMOJA (which means unity), targeting information primarily toward college students to support their STI knowledge and access to care. The team’s solution also included a comprehensive cultural analysis to address roots of STI-related stigma and partnerships with local providers and other organizations relevant to college students. (Team members: Carizma Forbes, Charnae Henry-Smith, Marcus Mcintyre, Adaeze Okoroajuzie, and Chantay Moye; faculty adviser: Monica Ponder)

The 2021 panel of judges was:

  • Dawn Alley, head of health care innovation, Morgan Health, JPMorgan Chase
  • Nixon Ricardo Arauz, Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow; Ph.D. student, department of health behavior and policy, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
  • Edward Belcher Jr., future Metropolitan Police Department cadet
  • Darrin D’Agostino, provost and chief academic officer, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
  • Rebekah Horowitz, senior analyst, HIV, STIs, and viral hepatitis, National Association of County and City Health Officials
  • Matthew Rose, director, U.S. policy and advocacy, Health GAP (Global Access Project)


The D.C. Public Health Case Challenge is co-sponsored by the National Academy of Medicine’s Kellogg Health of the Public Fund and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Roundtable on Population Health Improvement, with support from the Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education.

The National Academy of Medicine, established in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine, is an independent organization of eminent professionals from diverse fields including health and medicine; the natural, social, and behavioral sciences; and beyond.  It serves alongside the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering as an adviser to the nation and the international community. Through its domestic and global initiatives, the NAM works to address critical issues in health, medicine, and related policy and inspire positive action across sectors. The NAM collaborates closely with its peer academies and other divisions within the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.



Stephanie Miceli, Media Relations Officer
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