Violence Against LGBT Youth: A Public Health Problem

November 21, 2013—It’s not often that a group of College students gets to collaborate with fellow Georgetown students from all corners of the campus—the McDonough School of Business, the School of Nursing & Health Sciences, and the School of Medicine. But recently, in a demonstration of cross-campus partnership, a team of students from those schools took first place in a regional public health competition.

The five-member Georgetown team presented its winning public health proposal, taking aim at reducing hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in the District, at the first DC Regional Public Health Case Challenge on November 15. The competition, co-hosted by Georgetown University and the Institute of Medicine, a part of the National Academies, was a daylong event for which students had two weeks to prepare.

It’s not easy to jump into a competition when you don’t know your teammates, but Ranit Mishori, an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the medical school who helped organize the competition with Associate Professor of Biology Anne Rosenwald, says the students didn’t hesitate.

“They did not know each other before we put the team together, but it was an incredible teamwork experience for them. They gelled quickly and fed off each other’s ideas extremely well from the beginning,” Mishori said.

For the team members—Chandani Desai (C’15), Claire Lang (C’14), Megan Prior (M’15), Suzanne Huszagh (N’14), and Darshana Prakasam (B’14)—success resulted from their wide breadth of knowledge. With students from public policy, business, medicine, and health care management programs, the team was able to cover a broad swath of territory.

“Each member brought a unique expertise that allowed our intervention plan to be as comprehensive as possible,” Desai, a biology of global health major, said “It was awesome to see students from all areas and all stages in their academic careers come together to solve a very real issue here in DC,” she continued.

The case in question required that the teams to submit mock grant proposals addressing the problem of violence against LGBT youth in the District. The proposed interventions needed to be “interdisciplinary, innovative, equitable, justifiable, and financially sound,” according to the 25-page case released to each team on November 1.

The Georgetown team, which was coached by professors Irene Jillson and Michael Stoto, both from the School of Nursing & Health Studies, developed a curriculum and social media campaign to empower the public to speak out against violence directed at LGBT youth. In their proposal, the students laid out statistics on the problem in DC; identified existing infrastructure; established a project timeline, tactics, and budget; and proposed detailed measures to evaluate the initiative’s success.

College students and alumni were also involved in crafting the case. Blake Johnson (C’14), a biology of global health major, and Alisse Hannaford (C’13), who is currently a research assistant in the Department of Family Medicine, both helped create the challenge along with Sweta Batni, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the global infectious diseases program, and Michelle White (M’16), a second-year medical student.

“Writing the case allowed me to tackle and develop a problem on a topic (violence) and a population (LGBT youth) that was unfamiliar to me. I got the opportunity to expand my knowledge and training in public health and to apply this knowledge to a real-life, complex problem faced in DC,” Batni said.

The Georgetown team’s proposal faced stiff competition, ultimately beating out those presented by George Washington University, Howard University, American University, George Mason University, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and the United States Naval Academy. According to Jillson, Georgetown’s win symbolizes the university’s leadership in several key areas.

“Our Georgetown team was extraordinary, and yet another example of Georgetown’s contributions to public health, LGBT rights, and the health and well-being in the DC community—as well as cross-campus, interdisciplinary collaboration,” Jillson said.

The team will represent Georgetown in the March 2014 Emory Global Health Case Competition. The idea to launch the DC Public Health Case Challenge was born at the 2013 Emory event, where Rosenwald and two IOM staff members first discussed the idea of collaborating on a Georgetown/IOM event in Washington, DC.

“It was truly a group effort from start to finish to pull off the DC event,” Rosenwald said.

—Lauren Wolkoff, GUMC Communications