AHW Scholar Wins Hack-a-thon Prize

L-R: Maximilian Gradel, Madeleine O’Neill, Francisco Rodriguez Garza, and Katherine Daiss

L-R: Maximilian Gradel, Madeleine O’Neill, Francisco Rodriguez Garza, and Katherine Daiss

Francisco Rodriguez Garza, an Alliance Global Health Equity Scholar, and his team were recently awarded the Implementation Prize in the inaugural Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Hack-a-thon. Hosted by the Anna Baetjer Society for Public Health Practice, the Hack-a-thon gave teams of graduate students the opportunity to develop a policy strategy for a major public health problem.

This year’s topic was the opioid epidemic at a county level. Each team was assigned a Maryland county, and they met with a health official to discuss the specific problems that county faces regarding the opioid epidemic. Rodriguez’s team, which also included MPH students Madeleine O’Neill, Katherine Daiss and Maximilian Gradel, focused on including peers in the process of treating people with substance use disorders.

“Our policy idea was to place peers, or as we named them ‘community first-responders’ in the response team – alongside EMS – that treats patients with overdoses due to opioids,” said Rodriguez, an MPH student.

Their strategy also included using CFRs to facilitate workshops for EMS teams to combat stigma against people with substance use disorders, as well as having CFRs follow up with overdose patients to connect them with existing treatment programs.

The Hack-a-thon’s panel of judges included county health officials and opioid policy experts. Teams were judged based on criteria including analysis of the problem, justification of solution, implementation, sustainability, and teamwork. The implementation prize, which went to Rodriguez’s team, was awarded for most thought given to incorporating practicalities such as budget, resources, and social/political constraints.

“I feel grateful to have been able to learn from my teammates and other groups. The award was just an extra to the learning experience I had participating in the event,” Rodriguez said.


Article by AHW Global Health Scholar Alyssa Wooden. Alyssa is majoring in Public Health Studies and minoring in Environmental Studies. Since 2017 she has served as the editor for the Johns Hopkins News-Letter and has worked with a local organization to prepare policy briefs for environmental impacts on child health.