By Tasawwar Rahman (‘22)
International Academy senior, Vivian Yee (‘21), places ninth and wins 50k at the Regeneron Science Talent Search. The competition, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high schoolers, draws nearly 2,000 entrants per year. Vivian’s project, entitled “A Novel Epidemiological Approach to Exploring the Implications of Social Determinants of Health on COVID-19 Spread: A Call to Action for Health Equity,” aims to look at how social determinants of health (SDOH) impacted COVID-19 outcomes within New York City.
To carry out her research, Vivian looked at 15 factors from data provided by the CDC Social Vulnerability Index. She then modelled how the rates of COVID-19 outcomes and SDOH work to create health disparities in vulnerable communities. Through her research, which has been adopted by the Congressional Coronavirus Task Force, Vivian hopes that it can help guide future public health policies and interventions for diseases new and old.
In light of this tremendous accomplishment, I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Vivian and learn more about her project, her inspiration, and her advice for future generations of scientists. When asked what inspired her to pursue this research, she told me this: “I’ve always been very interested in social justice through educational advocacy and more, so seeing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underprivileged communities didn’t sit well with me.” With that passion in mind, Vivian got to work, designing and executing her very own research project during the course of an internship with the US COVID-19 National Response Team.
While STEM and activism might seem like an odd combination for many, Vivian sees it differently. “STEM is such a critical and versatile tool for promoting innovation and solving our world’s greatest issues,” issues that she hopes to be at the forefront of when she continues her studies next year as a freshman in college. Touched by the reality of the pandemic, she hopes to continue her work in public health collaborating with groups such as the World Health Organization to help minimize the devastation caused by infectious disease and secure health equity amongst those they affect.
As for the next generation of scientists whom she hopes to inspire, her advice is simple: “Never doubt what you can accomplish and never feel like there is something that you can’t achieve, because when you start out a project it all starts with that good idea and having the determination to see it through.”