Congratulations to the six co-winners of the 2022 Lasker Essay Contest!

Solving complex questions often calls for expertise in many fields. How do we approach such challenges? In this year’s Lasker Essay Contest, we asked medical, research, and public health trainees to describe how multidisciplinary collaborations and approaches, or future opportunities for them, have impacted or will impact their training, research, or career. We received a record number of essays, including responses from 128 different institutions in 27 countries. There were many wonderful essays about medicine as a team sport, learning to communicate effectively when collaborating with experts in other fields, and combining medicine, research, and advocacy to address health issues. Choosing only six essays was quite a challenge!

From top left: Avik Ray, Azmina Karukappadath, Hussain Lalani, Kirti Nath, Rutvij Merchant, Kaelyn Cummins

We are delighted to introduce the 2022 winners: Avik Ray, Azmina Karukappadath, Hussain Lalani, Kaelyn Cummins, Kirti Nath, and Rutvij Merchant. Join us in congratulating them!
Read all of the winning essays, below.

Kaelyn Cummins, Baylor College of Medicine

Kaelyn was born and raised in Maryland and knew from a young age that she wanted to be a surgeon. She attended Harvard College, where she studied Molecular and Cellular Biology and minored in Astrophysics. While at Harvard, she gained a passion for research, working at the National Institutes of Health and at multiple biomedical research institutes in Boston. She attended Baylor College of Medicine, where she completed Baylor’s Space Medicine elective pathway in conjunction with the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH). She received her MD from Baylor in May 2022 and has just started General Surgery residency at University of Virginia. She is interested in trauma surgery and plans to make both teaching and research part of her future career.

Essay Microbes, Medicine, and Astronauts: Reflections on a Collaborative Project

Azmina Karukappadath, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Azmina was born in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and grew up in the suburbs of Boston, MA. She graduated from Tufts University in 2018 with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Dance. She worked as a software engineer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard for two years, where she helped develop an online computational biology platform to support researchers in analyzing biomedical data in the cloud. She began medical school at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2020 and dreams of developing innovative healthcare technology on multidisciplinary teams. In her free time, Azmina enjoys exploring Baltimore with friends, practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with her team, and reading science fiction novels with her two cats.

Essay Two Fields, One Dream

Hussain Lalani, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School

Hussain is a General Internal Medicine Fellow at the Program on Regulation, Therapeutics, and Law (PORTAL) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He is the co-founder of This Is Our Shot and VacunateYa, a national grassroots social media effort to elevate the voices of medical professionals to build healthier communities, share accurate health information, and combat health misinformation. His research interests include understanding the challenges and inequities patients face in accessing affordable prescription drugs and evaluating the impact of health policies and interventions. He is a first-generation American from Dallas, TX. He earned his MD from Duke University, his MPH from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and trained in Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. His hobbies include traveling, playing volleyball, and hiking.

Essay I Would Be Scared if I Heard That Too

Rutvij Merchant, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Rutvij is a medical student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai with interests in internal medicine, psychiatry, and healthcare delivery. He was born in India and raised between the cities of Mumbai, India and Dubai, UAE. Rutvij earned an MPH from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a BA in Political Science from Northwestern University. Rutvij’s research interests involve studying health systems in low-and middle-income countries with a focus on improving primary care delivery. He is also interested in investigating questions that address the treatment gap for mental disorders. Outside of medicine and public health, Rutvij enjoys playing cricket, visiting national parks, and reading about South Asian history.

Essay Pathways to Global Health Equity: More Seats, Fresh Perspectives

Kirti Nath, Harvard Medical School and MIT

Kirti is a second year student in the Harvard-MIT MD-PhD program, studying for her MD in the Health Sciences & Technology Program. She grew up on Long Island, NY, and as an undergraduate, Kirti studied molecular biology, statistics, and economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interest lies in understanding how subtle deviations in peripheral and lymphoid tissue can lead to breaks in or the development of immune tolerance. In the future, she hopes to combine the different parts of her training from economics and finance to basic biology and clinical care as a physician-scientist.  Outside of the lab and class, Kirti is an avid runner and coffee-enthusiast!

Essay Puzzles

Avik Ray, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health

Avik is a Master of Science candidate in Epidemiology with pharmacoepidemiology as the concentration track at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. He is a physician and has completed his medical school as well as residency in clinical pharmacology in India. He has worked with the WHO as a clinical research assistant and with the Indian Council of Medical Research on multiple public health projects before starting his master’s. His research interests include methods for causal inference, especially in the setting of sparse data, and computational health economics and policy evaluation. He has received scholarships for his studies at Harvard and is a recipient of the prestigious Rose Traveling Fellowship in Chronic Disease Epidemiology. When Avik is free, he likes to play ukulele and piano. He was a member of a musical band in India where he used to be a full-time guitarist and a part-time drummer. He loves road trips with friends and taking part in marathons!

Essay Unified Diversity: The Team Game