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Summer Students Help Progress Medical Research

Friday 17 January, 2014

Eight summer students are providing invaluable support to important medical research projects across the Bay of Plenty.

The group is the largest in the five-year history of the Summer Studentship Programme, which offers a 10-week scholarship during the summer semester break for research projects at Tauranga and Whakatane Hospitals. It is overseen by the Bay of Plenty District Health Board’s (BOPDHB) Clinical School.

“Senior clinicians put forward research proposals and supervise the students, who are typically studying towards a medical career,” said Clinical School Manager Sarah Strong.

“The students’ work is invaluable because it’s research the clinicians wouldn’t get time to undertake. There’s a lot of data gathering.

“It’s a real win-win as the students also sample hospital life and get to know the clinicians. That’s very important because longer term we anticipate that they might apply for placements or work here.”

This summer’s research topics have included: emergency department admissions, prostate cancer, telehealth, coronary care, drug compounding, acute stroke and multiple sclerosis.

Olivia Burn has been helping evaluate multiple sclerosis (MS) prevalence in the Bay of Plenty, and has so far identified around 130 people with the disease.

“I have been contacting the patients and asking them questions about the support they’re getting, what supplements they are taking, and the affect MS has had on their employment. This information has been used to rate patients and gauge the impact the disease is having on them as it progresses.”

Miss Burn has just finished her second year of a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Otago. The 19-year-old, whose major is Genetics and Neuroscience, has been working alongside neurologist Dr Andrew Chancellor.

“I really appreciate the opportunity and hope what I’m doing will help the MS patients with the management of their condition,” she said.

Stephanie Chisholm is working alongside a Waipuna Hospice palliative care specialist undertaking a prostate cancer project.

“I am doing a retrospective audit, looking at the clinical course of patients with advanced prostate cancer,” said the 22-year-old who has just finished her second year studying medicine in Auckland.

“We’re looking at the disease trajectory, drugs offered and referral records. The information gathered will be really valuable and we can analyse that and draw conclusions.”

Miss Chisholm said the experience gained during the programme had encouraged her to consider Tauranga Hospital in her future career options.

“I’ve made some great contacts and if I come here in the future I will know my way around.”

The students - Katrina Lynam, Tu Kawha, Stephanie Chisholm, George Ansley, Ngaio Garcia, Olivia Burn, Natasha Martin and Emma Aiken - will present their findings to an audience of doctors and other health professionals at Tauranga Hospital’s ‘Grand Round’ on Tuesday. (21 January)

The Summer Studentship Programme is funded by sponsorship from organisations including: Bay of Plenty Medical Research Trust, the Kathleen Kilgour Centre, Grace Hospital, Venturo, BOPDHB and the University of Auckland.

ENDS

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