STARSurg are delighted to support the Medical Student Prize award for best Oral Presentation at the ASiT International Conference. The winner of this year’s prize was Alexander Hollis, a final year medical student at the University of Birmingham, who has kindly written a report of his project here:
As a medical student, structured research opportunities can be tough to find. At the beginning of your medical career it can also sometimes be challenging to direct your enthusiasm in a productive way! I was fortunate enough at Birmingham to stumble upon a fantastic program which solved both these dilemmas. The Upper GI Charities at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) and the Upper GI Blues Charity from Sandwell have generously provided funding for one or two students to take part in a summer ‘research fellowship’ for up to 8 weeks. I saw this opportunity in the medical society’s weekly bulletin and duly sent in my application.
The ‘research fellowship’ was supervised by a Consultant Upper GI surgeon with a special interest in oesophageal cancer. We discussed potential project titles and decided on using the ‘Tracker’ database at the QHB to assess the relationship between tumour length and patient survival and outcome. The Tracker database is an in-house project of the Upper GI surgery unit at QEHB and it prospectively collects patient data for all oesophageal and gastric cancer patients treated at the hospital. We decided to investigate tumour length as our project title for a number of reasons. First it is a measurement that is routinely collected both preoperatively (CT, PET, EUS, Endoscopy) and also on post-operative pathology, however it is not currently part of the official staging process. Second, there has been previous studies that have shown that it may have a prognostic value but none on such a large scale or looking at tumour lengths across a range of diagnostic modalities. The project aim was primarily to determine whether tumour length could be used to aid clinicians and patients in predicting the prognosis of their cancer.
We found that unfortunately there was no significant correlation between tumour length on any of the preoperative investigations (CT, PET, EUS, Endoscopy) and patient survival. However, we did find that tumours over 3cm on pathology had a significantly worse prognosis than those below 3cm. Interestingly there was not a progressive decline in survival in tumours larger then 3cm instead survival steeply decreased and then plateaued.
In addition to this project, I also edited an educational surgical video on Minimally Invasive Oesophagectomy. This is to be presented at the ASGBI Surgical Meeting in May where it won the Audio-visual Prize for best surgical video.
The main benefits of being involved in this project was having the opportunity to join and receive guidance from an established research team. The skills that I was able to develop while seeing a project out from inception to publication will hopefully set me in good stead to continue my research interest. Understanding the process of research, data collection, statistical analysis, academic writing and presentation skills are also very transferable and will hopefully benefit me in whatever field I end up pursuing. We are in the process of writing up our research for publication in a surgical journal.
I would like to thank again my supervisor Mr Ewen Griffiths for his support and guidance. Also the Upper GI Charities for funding this unique post for students to get involved in research at such an early stage. I’m also grateful for James Hodson, Statistician for performing the statistics for this project.