Winners of IOM-NAE 'Go Viral to Improve Health' Collegiate

June 05, 2012

WASHINGTON -- VaxNation, an app designed to make it easier for people to keep up with their families' immunizations, won first place and a $10,000 prize in this year's "Go Viral to Improve Health: IOM-NAE Health Data Collegiate Challenge." The app organizes immunization records, reminds users when they or their children are due for a vaccination, and links to information about diseases. It was created by a team of students from Baylor College, Rice University, and the University of Texas. Teams from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Indiana University took second and third place, respectively.

VaxNation was selected from 51 entries submitted in response to this second annual, nationwide collegiate challenge from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). The contest calls on undergraduate and graduate students to use health data to design web-based or mobile applications that take on pressing health issues and provide active solutions. A unique feature of the challenge is that it requires interdisciplinary teams with members pursuing degrees in health professions as well as engineering, computer sciences, or related fields. VaxNation's developers are George Chen, Emma Corbett, Peter Kamel, Ronnie Ren, and Hashim Zaidai. Their winning app can be explored at

Spencer Fox, Mark Vitale, and Aaron Wilson from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology won second place and a $5,000 prize for their mobile app called RaysAwareness, which increases and spreads knowledge about damage from overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation. The app offers tips for preventing skin damage and syncs with the user's daily schedule to send reminders about preventive measures, such as when to apply sunscreen. Watch a demo of the team's app at

Michele Degges, Mukta Gundi, Pranav Gupta, Matthew Holfelner, and Anthony Monaco from Indiana University won third place and a $3,000 prize with HealthyState, a mobile app that provides images and information about the overall health of the population of each state. This information can help people make decisions such as where to look for a job or where to retire. A demo of the app can be seen at

The first place team will demonstrate VaxNation on June 6 in Washington, D.C., at the Health Data Initiative Forum III: The Health Datapalooza. This third annual gathering of health leaders, technology developers, and entrepreneurs aims to accelerate the public use of health data and spur innovation to improve individual and community health. All three winning teams will showcase their technologies in the forum's exhibit hall. More information on the forum, which IOM is co-sponsoring, is available at

"Data identifies health problems and can point the way to solutions, but only if they are harnessed in user-friendly ways," said IOM President Harvey V. Fineberg. "This year's winning apps demonstrate that ingenuity and collaboration among young people from different disciplines can yield creative, accessible tools and turn our smartphones or tablets into health improvement devices."

"These students have developed applications that can have real impact on people's lives," said NAE President Charles M. Vest. "Their accomplishments show the potential power of engineering in helping to improve the health of our nation."

The prizes for this year's challenge winners were supported by a generous $10,000 gift from Richard Merkin, president and CEO of the Heritage Provider Network (HPN).

"I am delighted to sponsor the grand prize in the Go Viral to Improve Health challenge because it harnesses the creativity and imagination of undergraduate and graduate students," Merkin said. "This generation will be the drivers of the disruptive innovation and creative destruction that health care so critically needs, and which it must undergo, to move from its current 'sick care' system to a system focused on wellness and caring for people before they get ill."
The Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Engineering along with the National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. For more information, visit

The Health Data Initiative, originally launched in 2010 by the Institute of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the Community Health Data Initiative, is a public-private collaboration that encourages innovators to utilize health data to develop applications to raise awareness of health and health system performance and spark community action to improve health.

Heritage Provider Network Inc. develops programs and services that are responsive to the health care needs of today's patient. HPN organizes and manages medical groups and independent practice associations, integrating with hospitals and ancillary care providers. It is dedicated to quality, affordable health care, and putting patients' wellness first. For more information, visit


Christine Stencel, Senior Media Relations Officer, Institute of Medicine 202-334-2138; e-mail

Nicole Flores, Program Associate for Media/Public Relations, National Academy of Engineering 202-334-2226;

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

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