Teen Epidemiologists Descend on D.C. to Compete, Solve Public Health Issues

Hundreds of teens throughout the country competed in this year's YES (Young Epidemiology Scholars) Competition, and that number has now been pared down to 60 regional finalists who will travel to Washington, D.C., to present their work and vie for $500,000 in scholarships.

The 60 regional finalists will present their projects April 23-26 in the nation's capital before a panel of distinguished judges comprised of leading epidemiologists and public health experts. This year's judges include epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the former deputy commissioner for New York City's Department of Health, and the chief of the California Department of Public Health's Center for Infectious Disease, among other prominent public health figures. All 60 regional finalists are awarded at least $2,000 each. The top 12 YES scholars advance to compete as national finalists for scholarships ranging from $15,000 to $50,000. This year's 12 national finalists will be announced Monday, April 26.

The YES Competition was established in 2003 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the College Board to inspire talented high school students to apply epidemiological methods to the investigation of public health issues and, ultimately, encourage the brightest young minds to enter the field of public health. By 2020, the United States will face a shortfall of more than 250,000 public health workers, according to the Association of Schools of Public Health.

"With the nation facing a potentially catastrophic shortage of public health professionals, it is critical that we cultivate the next generation of public health talent," said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., MBA. "These students' outstanding work demonstrates that the future of epidemiology holds great promise."

The YES Competition awards nearly $500,000 in college scholarships annually to 120 high school students. To date, the competition has awarded more than $3.2 million in scholarships. More than 4,000 students from all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and American Samoa, have entered the YES Competition since its inception. Six hundred thirty-nine students entered in 2010. Past winners have investigated bird flu outbreaks in humans, posttraumatic stress disorder in combat veterans, and the link between sleep deprivation and teen obesity, among many other urgent public health challenges of our time.

"Teaching new generations about epidemiology has tremendous value not only for those who go on to pursue careers in public health but for all students. Through the study of epidemiology, students expand their understanding of scientific methods and critical thinking," said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board. "These students are addressing national and global health issues that are shaping the world around us. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of their hard work in the future."

For a complete list of regional finalists, go to www.collegeboard.com/yes/fs/winners_0910_regfinal.html.

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