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MIDAS-Affiliated Student Wins Award

sunjoo low res 2009Michelle Sunjoo Lee, a member of MIDAS Investigator Bruce Lee's team and a junior at North Allegheny High School, recently won a national science competition and a $50,000 scholarship. She was one of two first-place winners at the Young Epidemiology Scholars (YES) Competition in Washington, D.C., a contest that attracted 562 entrants from across the U.S.

Michelle's project, “Routine Outpatient Testing of Skin Infections for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in High School Athletes,” investigated whether it is cost effective to require testing of all high school athletes who have skin infections for MRSA. MRSA became a newsworthy disease in 2007 following a number of high school student deaths. A highly antibiotic-resistant pathogen, MRSA does not respond to standard treatments for skin infection.

She developed a computer simulation model and found that routine testing becomes cost-effective when the prevalence of MRSA is greater than 10%.

The students were judged by a prestigious panel, including accomplished high school science teachers, deans of schools of public health, faculty from medical and public health colleges, and leaders of national, state, and local health departments. Competition judge Kenneth Moritsugu, who retired in 2007 from his post as Acting Surgeon General, said, "Ms. Lee did an outstanding job in modeling the cost-benefits of screening athletes to identify those who may have this infection. It was a well-thought-through model, which determined at what point screening would be cost-effective."

Michelle, aged 17, is also an award-winning musician, having performed six times as a piano soloist at Carnegie Hall in New York City, as well as once for the United Nations. She hopes to major in biochemistry or biology and chemistry in college and to have a career in medical research and public health. 



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