2022-23 STS Director’s Award for Advancing Social Justice in Science, Technology, and Medicine

This year's award recipient is STS graduating Senior Nicole Mossmer. Nicole was diagnosed with a heart condition during her freshman year at Stanford, forcing her to retire from tennis team. She then founded the Play With Heart Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that seeks to raise awareness and provide essential resources to mitigate the risks of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in young athletes. The foundation’s goal is to make sure every young athlete can pursue their passion for sports without the fear of SCA, which is the leading cause of death in young people in the US. Play With Heart has addressed the issue with large-scale EKG screenings, AED donations, emergency response plans, and social media campaigns.

Nicole reports that her STS coursework was instrumental in developing the foundation. Through STS 51D with Professor Robinson, she conducted research into the disproportionate rates of Sudden Cardiac Death in Black athletes and how a combination of genetic predisposition, racial biases, resource inequities, and an overall lack of awareness have contributed to worse overall outcomes for this demographic. In other coursework, Nicole explored the future role AI might play in making EKGs more accessible and accurate, as well as the ethical implications that must be considered. The skills she gained in ME 125 allowed her to redesign the foundation’s website and launch a successful social media campaign that has caught the attention and support of high-profile athletes such as NFL player Damar Hamlin and former tennis star Billie Jean King.

Since its inception in June 2022, Play With Heart has raised over $250,000, launched an AED donation program, and organized an EKG screening for over 1,000 youth athletes in San Diego. It is Nicole’s vision to continue to extend resources to BIPOC and other marginalized communities, who often lack access to these life-saving tools. Nicole’s efforts through her foundation align directly with the spirit of the STS Director’s Award for Advancing Social Justice, which recognizes the critical role of science and technology in addressing societal disparities.

Congratulations Nicole!