International Medical Essay Competition 2013


Congratulations to our 2013 ISEC Winners and Runner-Ups!

Tony Pan, of Lynbrook High School in San Jose, CA, was awarded first place for his essay “Nuclear Security and Nanotechnology.” Navya Dasari, of BASIS Scottsdale school in Scottsdale, AZ, received second place.

In addition, Sara Camilli, of Biotechnology High School in Freehold, NJ, and Rachel Stanziola, of MMI Preparatory School in Freeland, PA, were each honored as runner-ups.

The DUJS Editorial Board would like to thank all who participated in ISEC 2013. This year we received over 260 submissions from twenty different countries, making our selection process extremely difficult. To all of our contestants, we wish you all the best as you continue your studies in science.


First Place Winner: Tony Pan
Grade: 12
Topic: Nuclear Security and Nanotechnology
Lynbrook High School

What are you thoughts about winning ISEC 2013?
I’ve always had a passion for both the sciences and writing and I decided that ISEC would be the perfect opportunity to demonstrate my abilities in both fields. Winning first place was a huge honor for me and it felt great to know that a team of accomplished authors and editors acknowledged the quality of my writing.

What did you learn while writing your essay?
Writing my essay helped me realize how interconnected different sects of science really are. I was very excited to learn how important ideas can be applied in multiple contexts.  I was able to expand my capability as a thinker and develop creativity in science. I also became more aware of the role science plays in today’s world and how it affects the way we live our lives.

What do you hope to study in college?
I hope to major in materials science engineering or chemical engineering and minor in computer science in college.

Second Place Winner: Navya Dasari
Grade: 11

Topic: Next to Normal: Mood Disorders, Medicine, and Society
BASIS Scottsdale High School

What are your thoughts about winning Second Place?
I am really honored to have my essay selected for second place and excited to hear that it will be published in the print journal. I worked hard on the essay and really enjoyed researching and writing it, so I’m glad that others in the scientific community found it valuable. I feel strongly about advancing the mental health care system, as I’ve seen firsthand how important it is. If my essay could spark more discussion about these issues, it would make me really happy.

What did you learn while writing your essay?
While writing the essay, I learned how deep the stigma and discrimination surrounding bipolar disorder and depression really go. It was disappointing to see the extent to which race-associated stigma and media misinformation hurt those suffering from these disorders, but with that knowledge I could also identify clear areas in which progress can be made. The biology behind depression and its treatments is fascinating, and I finished the essay with a much better understanding of the brain and how crucial interdisciplinary research is to the study and treatment of depression.

What do you hope to study in college? 

As someone who is both a captivated psychology student and research assistant in a neuro-oncology lab, I’ve developed a strong passion for neuroscience and I hope that I can continue to pursue this interest in college. I’d love to continue with scientific research, not only in neuroscience but also in molecular biology and oncology.



Runner-Up: Sara Camilli
Grade: 11
Topic: Agricultural Biotechnology: A Solution to World Hunger and Malnutrition?
Biotechnology High School

What did you learn while writing your essay?
While writing and researching for my essay, I learned a lot about both world hunger and current developments in agricultural biotechnology. Putting the two together in my essay was exciting and required me to expand my thinking, which I imagine will be a valuable skill in the future.

What do you hope to study in college? 

In college I hope to continue my pursuit of the sciences. At present, I imagine myself getting a bachelor degree in biology and going on to graduate school to study biotechnology. Cancer studies have always interested me as well, and it would be great to be able to conduct research in that area of study.


Runner-Up: Rachel Stanziola
Grade: 11
Topic: Bioprinting Hope
MMI Preparatory School

What did you learn while writing your essay?
I learned that advancements in technology such as 3D printing can help save lives. 3D printing will pave the way for future scientific breakthroughs.

What do you hope to study in college? 

I plan to major in the sciences and possibly incorporate my new knowledge of bioprinting in my career.




In September 2017, the Gavin Mooney Memorial Essay Competition was re-launched as a grants process, and as a joint project of the University of Wollongong,, and the online magazine Inside Story.

The competition honours the work and memory of the late Professor Gavin Mooney, a health economist who was a tireless advocate for social justice in local, national and international arenas. He was also a prolific contributor to Croakey.

Rather than awarding a prize for a completed essay (as was the case with the competition in 2013-2015), applicants are asked to submit a 500-word pitch for an essay or work of reportage on the topic of inequality and health. From these, an applicant will be commissioned to expand their proposal into a full-length article for a fee of $5000.

Keywords to consider include: power, community, voice, solutions, justice.

The essay may take a local, national or global focus. Entry is open to anyone, in Australia or overseas, whether academics, writers, journalists or citizens.

The $5,000 grant is donated by the University of Wollongong.

As well as honouring Professor Mooney, the competition seeks to draw public attention to social justice and health equity concerns, and to recognise the public interest value of writing and writers.

As well as their pitch, applicants are asked to provide:

• A short biography and CV, indicating their capacity to undertake the project
• Two relevant samples of previous work
• Details of two referees who have previously published the applicant’s work or who know their work well
• A work plan indicating how the applicant would have the essay ready for publication within four months of being awarded the $5,000 grant.

This is not intended to be an academic publication. Please pitch your essay for a general audience (although you are welcome to provide references).

Entries must not have been previously published. Applications should be sent to by midnight on 27 October. A decision will be made by mid-November.

The winning entry will be published by Inside Story and Croakey, and editorial processes will be jointly managed by Peter Browne and Melissa Sweet. The aim is to publish the winning entry in the first half of 2018.

Judging processes

Judging criteria include:

  • The work will be disruptive i.e. challenging or prompting change in status quo
  • The work will incorporate novel ideas or approaches or thinking or style
  • The work will tell stories that matter
  • The quality of the writing.

Professor Glenn Salkeld, Peter Browne and Melissa Sweet will jointly develop a short list of five applications with a final decision to be made by these judges:

Professor Simon Eckerman, health economist, UoW
Professor Paul Chandler, Pro Vice Chancellor, UoW
Ms Kelly Briggs, writer and author
Professor Glenn Salkeld, Executive Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, UoW
Peter Browne, Editor, Inside Story
Melissa Sweet, Editor, Croakey


Professor Glenn Salkeld announced the competition as many of Gavin’s colleagues gathered in Sydney for the 9th World Congress on Health Economics in July 2013.

He said the prize would encourage people to speak out on an issue that is of universal importance to Australians and people across the world.   

“Inside Story is delighted to be involved in this important initiative,” said editor Peter Browne. “We believe the prize will contribute to a greater awareness of the importance of intelligent and engaging coverage of health issues in the Australian media. The choice of climate change and equity as the first topic reflects the complexity of the challenges facing countries like Australia in the coming decades.”

Health journalist and Croakey editor Melissa Sweet said Professor Mooney had been a prolific contributor to Croakey, writing dozens of articles on issues ranging from Indigenous health to health policy, global health and citizen’s juries.

“We need more people like Gavin who are prepared to wield the power of the pen in the interests of creating fairer, more sustainable societies,” she said.

For its first three years, the competition was a joint project between the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, Inside Story and Croakey.

The inaugural competition had the theme of climate change and equity, in recognition of the work of Professor Mooney’s late partner Dr Delys Weston.

The winning entry in 2013, by Dr Tim Senior, Climate change and equity: whose language is it anyway?, was published at Inside Story, and the five best essays were published in an e-book.

NSW freelance writer El Gibbs won the 2014 competition with an essay titled, A place to call home: housing security and mental health, which was published at Inside Story. The 2014 topic was: The social and cultural determinants of mental health: collective responsibilities; individualism; austerity; entitlements.

The 2015 topic was: In the digital era, whose voices are being heard?, and the winning author was Amin Ansari, a PhD candidate at Flinders University, whose essay was titled, Lighting the Dark Waters.

For more information:

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Essay Archives

2013 E-book of five top essays including the winning entry.

2014 E-Book of five top essays including the winning entry: Social and cultural determinants of mental health.


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