Read the latest HealthWatch newsletter:  Newsletter 115, Spring 2021

One clear stand-out winner was approved by all four judges of this year’s HealthWatch Student Prize: Matthew Choy, final year student at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, took the £500 first prize.

Matthew, who is from South London, popped up at our virtual AGM on 20th October to receive his prize and have a chat with Nick Ross, before excusing himself to revise for an exam the next day. Matthew says he came early to sceptical thinking: “It was reading 'Trick or Treatment'* back in high school that tipped the balance for me to choose medicine instead of law, as I realized I could combine both my interests in healthcare and debating that way.” He is a keen and competitive debater with a side interest in medico-legal matters, and hopes to pursue a career in academic surgery, ideally neurosciences.

 Like past winners, Matthew expressed surprise that there is nothing else like the HealthWatch Student Prize competition. “A firm grasp of critiquing clinical trials and research is essential for any evidence-based doctor keeping up with recent developments – that’s all doctors!” Responding to Nick’s question on how much trial methodology featured in his curriculum, Matthew replied, “We do have extremely good public health teaching, a very good epidemiology course and quite advanced statistics, but on analysis of clinical trials there is not so much.”

The annual HealthWatch Student Prize competition, which has categories for students of medicine, dentistry, nursing and allied healthcare professions, awards cash prizes to students who can prove their research skills. Entrants must evaluate four hypothetical research protocols and rank them in order of quality, with a short essay explaining their rationale. The winning students of 2020 were chosen from 80 entries overall. This year only 24 achieved the correct order, and all but two were from medical and dental students. Matthew was a clear stand-out winner, and three runners-up were very much ahead of the field.

Praise for runners-up and highly commended entries

One was Rahul Penumaka, a 5th year medic from Imperial College London, who is deeply interested in research and critiquing it for scientific rigour. He told Nick, “Imperial College has changed its curriculum, focuses more on critically appraising research, and what is done well and what poorly. It’s a step in the right direction.” The other runners-up were David Hewitt who graduated this year from Glasgow University and is now an academic FY1 doctor; and Edward Christopher, just graduated from Edinburgh University, who was last year’s winner! Edward, celebrating qualifying as the first doctor in his family, has taken a HealthWatch Student Prize for the last three years. “I really enjoy it that much! I always discover and learn something new each time I participate. I thought this year the competition was particularly challenging and I definitely had to carefully consider my responses to each trial protocol. I am so glad and grateful to have been chosen as one of the winners this year!

I always discover and learn something new each time I participate. I thought this year the competition was particularly challenging

There was also praise for three highly commended entries. Emily Lancastle (4th year, Edinburgh University Medical School) and Shafeer Rishad (5th year, University of Glasgow Medical School), both told us they had entered the competition to practice critical appraisal skills after being inspired by their experience of clinical research during their intercalated degrees. Matthew Kingham, a 2nd year medic at Kings College London, was intrigued to understand more about how research protocols work. “I will definitely be looking to enter again next year!” he told us. Also highly commended was the entry from Faraaz Khan, a medical student at Oxford University.

The full list of 2020 and previous year’s winners is here. We are grateful for the generosity of our sponsors, the Royal College of Physicians.

Mandy Payne, Editor, HealthWatch Newsletter

25 November 2020

*by past HealthWatch Award winners Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh