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Findacure: Medical Essay Competition

March 16, 2015

The Orphan Druganaut Blog is honored to have again, Flóra Raffai, the Head of Development from Findacure, as a Guest Blogger. Findacure is a charity which focuses around fundamental diseases – rare, often genetic, diseases from which the basic mechanisms of dysfunction can be extrapolated and applied to our understanding of more common conditions.

One of Findacure’s charity aims is to create a receptive research environment that recognizes the fundamental importance of rare conditions. As part of this, we launched a medical essay competition last year for UK medical students to engage the next generation of clinicians and researchers around the need to study rare diseases. Students were invited to pick one of four titles and write an essay of no more than 1,500 words to enter the competition. With the winners receiving their awards at our February Scientific Conference, we would like to highlight the essays most commended by our judges.

One essay stood out as the winner, that of Rosemary Grain, a 4th year student at King’s College London. Rosemary picked the title, “How has the study of rare diseases influenced our knowledge of more common diseases?”, choosing to focus on the example of Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome, commonly known as Progeria. Her essay explored the relationship between researching Progeria and the insights it brings about common aspects to aging. One key point raised by Rosemary is that Progeria patients only develop some of the common diseases associated with aging; they do not develop dementia for example. This can help researchers searching for a cure rule out certain disease mechanisms. Dr Andrew Tee, one of our judges, described the essay as a “thought provoking review,” which “kept [him] intrigued from start to finish.”

In a close second place came Benjamin Ng, a 2nd year student at the University of Sheffield, who picked the same title. Benjamin explored the knowledge gained from a variety of rare diseases, such as how the study of familial hypercholesterolemia led to the development of statins and how alkaptonuria has offered new insights into osteoarthritis. Benjamin paid particular attention to fibrodysplasia ossificans progressive, more commonly known as Stone Man Syndrome, and how it has contributed to a greater understanding of its more commonly occurring counterpart: non-hereditary heterotopic ossification. He concluded with the thought that there is “a need for societies around the world to fully appreciate the fact that what is learned about rare diseases can have profound consequences for the understanding and treatment of more prevalent diseases.”

Alongside these two high scoring essays, several judges highlighted a third essay due to its excellent communication of the challenges faced by a patient and loved-ones. As a result, a second runner-up position was awarded to Anne Fitzgibbon, 1st year student at University College London, for her essay, “Discuss how experiences of a patient with a rare disease may differ from those of a patient with common disease”. She shared the story of hunting for a diagnosis for her boyfriend, currently living undiagnosed and struggling with stigma from medical professionals.  To overcome this neglect, she has set up a Rare Disease Society at her university to ensure students “keep [their] minds open and work alongside patients, to improve the medical world of tomorrow.”

If you are interested in reading the winning essay and runners-up, follow the links below:

•   Rosemary Grain – Winner

•   Benjamin Ng – Runner-Up

•   Anne Fitzgibbon – Runner-Up.

Picture courtesy of Findacure.

Copyright © 2012-2015,Orphan Druganaut Blog. All rights reserved.

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