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November 3, 2017

Team of Georgetown Students Compete in D.C. Public Health Case Competition

Team of Georgetown Students Compete in D.C. Public Health Case Competition

Students from across disciplines and universities gathered at the National Academy of Sciences to compete in the fifth annual D.C. Public Health Case Challenge on October 13.

The D.C. Public Health Case Challenge aims to promote interdisciplinary, problem-based learning around a public health issue facing the Washington, D.C. community. Teams consisting of students from at least three different disciplines were given two weeks to devise a comprehensive solution to the assigned case, which they then presented to an expert panel of judges. Teams were judged on the interdisciplinary nature of their response, feasibility of implementation, creativity, and practicality.

“Our biggest challenge was working with people who all came from such different backgrounds,” said Caroline King (M’18), who is pursuing a master's degree in physiology. “But that’s also what makes us unique.”


This year’s challenge was titled “Lead and Adverse Childhood Experiences: Neurological and Behavioral Consequences for Youth in the District of Columbia.” Each team drafted a proposal for a hypothetical $2.5 million budget.

The plan submitted by a team of Georgetown students outlined a community-centered approach that aimed to supplement ambiguous landlord-tenant laws, while simultaneously improving and strengthening the communities affected.

“Our solution focused on amending tangible ambiguous language in landlord tenant agreements in Washington, D.C.” said Noah Martin (G’19), Georgetown’s team captain pursuing a master's degree in learning and design. Current landlord tenant agreements in the district “make it unclear what the landlord's duty to provide alternative housing is for households found to contain lead, leading to housing insecurity, a major adverse childhood experience.”

While Georgetown’s team did not win the Case Challenge, the team received the Harrison C. Spencer Interprofessional Prize Memorial Award and were the one team invited to present their solution at the National Academy of Medicine’s annual luncheon on “Building Leadership Across Generations for Health and Health Policy.” The grand prize winner of the challenge was Howard University. More information about the 2017 challenge can be found on the National Academy of Medicine’s website.


Georgetown's team varied in ages, experience, and expertise. The eight-member team collectively represented Georgetown’s School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Walsh School of Foreign Service, the School of Nursing and Health Studies, the McCourt School of Public Policy, and Georgetown Law Center.

“It’s interesting, pulling people from other contexts to look at an example of a public health challenge, because this issue in particular is so interdisciplinary,” said Martin. “Embedding interdisciplinary learning, especially in a case competition such as this, is a beautiful way to go about synthesizing real-world experiences."

The challenge not only involved working with students of different academic backgrounds, but also encouraged some team members to move out of their comfort zone.

“It was a huge growing experience for me,” said Caroline Brailsford (M’18), who is also pursuing a master's degree in physiology. “When we had presented our plan, I was put in a situation where I had to present complex things that I would normally never present about.” 


In addition to connecting across disciplines, Georgetown team members also found the Case Challenge to be a unique opportunity to meet and connect with students in other Georgetown schools.

“This has been such a cool opportunity to meet so many other students all over the university, and to come together to help solve such important issues facing our communities together,” said King. “It's also been an interesting and rewarding experience being able to interact with undergraduates. As a graduate student, I often feel like I don’t interact with them at all.”

The Case Challenge also presented the opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students to connect and learn from each other.

“This challenge is equally beneficial for graduates and undergraduates alike,” stated King. “It’s an incredible opportunity for graduate students to learn from those younger than them, and a way for undergraduates to see their future.”

The Georgetown University team was comprised of the following presenters: Noah Martin (G'19), Caroline King (M'18), Matthew Simmons (NHS’18), Emily Shaffer (M'20), Prakesha Mathur (G'19), and Katelyn Shahbazian (SFS'18). Researchers included: Caroline Brailsford (M'18), Allison Doyle (M'20), and Alexandra Dumezich (L'19).