Earlier this year, Donald McVinnie, Elliot Gemmell and Emma Fisher were annnounced as the winners of the 2015 BGS Movement Disorders Essay Prize. Each of them has written a short blog about their experiences.
Participating in the BGS Movement Disorder Prize has been a very valuable experience. As medical students we learn all about the science behind the disease, how to diagnose and manage the symptoms, and consider the impact upon patients. However the BGS prize encourages a much deeper understanding of the patient experience.
Considering in great depth the impact that Parkinson’s Disease would have on you is a truly moving experience which allows for greater empathy to be shared with patients and ultimately will positively influence my care of patients living with Parkinson’s Disease.
Winning the BGS prize is a great honour and it is great to have your hard work recognised. But the real value has been in participating and in the impact that this has had on me personally and professionally.
The BGS Movement Disorder Prize is an incredible opportunity for students to widen their understanding of Parkinson’s Disease and it’s effects on sufferers. I would highly recommend participating to any student considering an entry.
I had often seen essay competitions for students advertised, but had never entered one until now. The BGS Movement Disorders Prize appealed to me because the title “If I had Parkinson’s Disease” offered the chance to consider a journey through Parkinson’s from the patient’s perspective. As a medical student I’m usually too focussed on swatting up on the pathology, presentation and management of diseases for exams. Furthermore, I had enjoyed the neurology teaching I had already received, and the essay presented another way of consolidating and expanding my interest.
Once I overcame the early ‘writer’s block’ stage, my interest in the topic grew further. I was humbled by the psychological strength of people with Parkinson’s disease, and the vast array of challenges doctors encounter during its diagnosis and management.
Discovering that I had won a prize was very gratifying. The recognition my essay received has certainly given me more confidence in my ability to write academically and I feel the experience has helped me develop a new way of thinking about disease and frailty.
I would encourage other students considering entering future BGS Competitions to give it a try. The worst-case scenario is that you will have a chance to practise essay writing (something not often asked of us in medical school) and learn a lot about the subject matter. Please do not ignore the opportunity because you feel like you do not know enough about the topic, or because you are not the type of person to whom writing comes naturally. I certainly was not expecting to win a prize…so you may just surprise yourself!
I noticed the poster advertising the British Geriatric Society Movement disorders essay prize on the Oxford medical school noticeboard and entered my essay as final year medical student. The essay title ‘If I had Parkinson’s’ inspired me to reflect on patients I had seen during clinical school and put myself in their shoes. Whilst studying medicine, I had written essays about the pathophysiology, neural circuitry and treatments for Parkinson’s disease. However, I had never researched and written about patients’ perspectives and the impact of Parkinson’s disease on their lives. The BGS competition gave me an opportunity to write about Parkinson’s disease from a new angle and gain a better understanding of patients’ experiences of Parkinson’s disease.
When I came to researching my essay, I was surprised to find a relative scarcity of good quality research into patient experiences of Parkinson’s disease. In contrast to the thousands of papers on Parkinson’s mouse models and clinical trials, finding studies that focused on patients’ experiences of Parkinson’s disease was a real challenge. I chose to supplement my research with anecdotal evidence from the Parkinson’s UK website, and spent a lot of time listening and reading through patients’ stories that are published on the website.
I was delighted when I was told my essay had been awarded third prize. I really enjoyed researching and writing my essay, because it allowed me to develop a greater understanding of the emotions and reactions of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Ultimately, I believe that entering this competition will help me to be a better doctor to my patients with Parkinson’s disease in the future. I would encourage all medical students to enter future BGS movement disorder competitions and to enjoy writing about movement disorders from a new perspective!