Sheffield medical students win prestigious UK gastroenterology awards

Two medical students at the University of Sheffield were presented with Medical Student Prizes in the prestigious 2023 Dr Falk Pharma/Guts UK Charity national awards.

A collage of two female students holding up paper copies of awards to the camera.

Fourth-year students Veena Shivakumar and Olivia Green were both awarded a Medical Student Prize and a £1,500 prize at the annual meeting of the British Gastroenterology Society (BSG) on Tuesday June 20th.

The ceremony took place during a celebratory dinner at the Hope St Hotel, Liverpool with the awards presented by the President of the BSG, Professor Andy Veitch, and attended by other illustrious names in gastroenterology medicine along with the CEO of Guts Charity UK.

The Dr Falk Pharma/Guts UK Charity Awards are dedicated to encouraging research and promoting patient care in the field of gastroenterology and hepatology. Since 2007 they have rewarded over 140 dedicated young healthcare professionals, including medical students, junior doctors, nurses and dietitians. This year for the first time, pharmacists have also been recognised. 

Veena won the Medical Student Prize for her research project, which examined the safety and efficacy of a new form of oesophageal investigation (gastroscopy) when using a capsule rather than a camera. The project was carried out at the Academic Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, whilst Veena was intercalating for a BSc in Medical Research BSc in Medical Sciences.   

Veena explained: "This study aimed to look at the safety and feasibility of using Pillcam UGI as an alternative to endoscopy/gastroscopy for varices (enlarged blood vessels in the oesophagus) surveillance as well as evaluating the impact it had on further disease management. Our study concluded that overall, Pillcam UG is a safe and a feasible alternative to endoscopy for varices surveillance.

"Working on this project has highlighted the positive impact that new medical developments can have on both patients and hospital practice. It has also allowed me to gain a personal insight into gastroenterology and the opportunities available in this field whilst winning this award, has developed my confidence in my own research abilities."

Veena's project supervisor, Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist Professor M. E. McAlindon of the Academic Unit of Gastroenterology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital Sheffield, said: "Veena demonstrated that UGI capsule provided excellent oesophageal views, was safe, avoided the need for gastroscopy in most and was helpful in guiding patient management with very few variceal bleeding episodes during the follow up period. Veena is diligent, thorough, independent and a much-liked member of the capsule endoscopy team."

Olivia Green was also commended for her research looking at the role the Fracture Risk Assessment tool could play in helping to identify the risk of osteoporosis in patients with coeliac disease.

Olivia explained: "Coeliac patients are at risk of low bone density due to the malabsorptive nature of the disease, and this puts patients with coeliac disease at a higher risk of osteoporosis and thus increases their fracture risk. At present, all patients with coeliac disease in Sheffield are referred for a bone density scan at diagnosis due to this. My research looked at determining whether the FRAX Fracture Risk Assessment tool could accurately predict those at risk of fracture, and if it had a place in the day-to-day clinical management of coeliac disease. 

"I found that the tool can identify patients at low risk of fracture and so bone density scanning is not needed in these patients. I also found that the prevalence of osteoporosis in those with coeliac disease is approximately 14% (compared to 5% in the general population), and that people with coeliac disease who continue to eat gluten have a higher incidence of fractures than those without."

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