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Public health challenge: Reducing gun violence in St. Louis

Washington University’s Institute for Public Health and Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship partnered to host a three-day immersive public health challenge.


Held September 16-19, 2016, multidisciplinary teams of students developed social and entrepreneurial concepts to reduce gun violence in St. Louis. More than a dozen students participated in the event which included an ideation session and three different mentor panels—affected community members, community partners, and social and business innovation partners.

Poli Rijos, Institute for Public Health’s Gun Violence Initiative coordinator, explained that the Public Health Challenge provided a unique opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to work together and provide potential solutions to an ongoing public health issue. She said, “Throughout the weekend, our students were able to work with members of the affected community and other mentors to strengthen the quality of their proposals.”

The weekend ended with the student teams presenting business ideas to a panel of judges. Three teams were awarded funding to further develop their business ideas.

Student Teams

1st Place – $1,000
Secure Gun Storage
Partnering with entertainment venues to provide secure gun storage.

  • Allison Poehler, Brown School, Master of Public Health
  • Victoria Assokom-Siakam, Arts & Sciences

2nd Place – $750
Youth Developed, Youth Implemented
An organization led by affected youth who will develop and implement initiatives to reduce gun violence.

  • Will Friend, Arts & Sciences

3rd Place – $500
Across the Arch
Using social media and other venues to build strong relationships between law enforcement and the community.

  • Christina Arzate, Brown School, Public Health
  • Hannah Sherrard, Brown School, Social Work
  • Kuan-lin Huang, Arts & Sciences, Bioinformatics

Clinton-Peabody Boys’ Club: Summer Experience
A summer program for boys, ages 8-12, who reside in the Clinton-Peabody housing complex.  

  • Rameez Ul Hassan, Brown School, System Dynamics, Social Entrepreneurship
  • Tim Pemberton, School of Medicine, Occupational Therapy
  • Noah Rennert, Arts & Sciences

A mobile application that can be used on any smartphone or any online interface to engage individuals prone to suicidal ideation.

  • Bradley Suda, Arts & Sciences, Biology
  • David Zhai, School of Law
  • Dustin Kee, Arts & Sciences, Biology and Global Health and Environment
  • Jillian McCarten, Arts & Sciences, Global Health, Anthropology and Psychology
  • Kathryn Achuck, Arts & Sciences, Anthropology

The student teams awarded funding will continue to refine their ideas with assistance from the Institute for Public Health, the Skandalaris Center and the Brown School’s Career Services.

Read More About the Public Health Challenge

Click HERE to read an article by St. Louis Public Radio.

Click HERE for an article by The Source.

For more information on what Washington University is doing about gun violence in the St. Louis region and beyond, visit the Institute’s Gun Violence Initiative online.