Hey undergrads, research doesn’t bite! Reflections from recent Tom Donaldson Award Winners

Undergraduate perspective on Sport & Exercise Medicine – a BJSM blog series

By Manroy Sahni and Esther Wright

Manroy and Esther, both final year medical students, reflect on why they were motivated to get involved in SEM research and show how far you can take your work. Manroy was the recent winner of the Tom Donaldson Research award (http://www.basem.co.uk/awards/tom-donaldson-poster-prize/) for his project “Anxiety, Depression and Perceived Sporting Performance amongst Professional Cricket Players”. Esther was runner up with her project “The Risk Factors for Patellar Tendinopathy in Adolescent Athletes: A Systematic Review”.

From left to right: Joey Fong (3rd), Manroy Sahni (1st) and Esther Wright (2nd). Tom Donaldson 2016 Prize Winners

What are some of the benefits for undergraduates that get involved in research?

To a medical student, the word ‘research’ is a daunting one. Although medical school prepares us for work within a clinical environment, the same cannot always be said for academic medicine. Despite being taught the basics of reading and appraising a paper, as students, we rarely get the chance to actively participate in research and are required to seek out our own opportunities. Those of us willing to put in a few extra hours of work will reap the rewards, even at an undergraduate level. Opportunities to explore areas of interest can help with refining career choices, whilst developing contacts and finding suitable mentors.  Publications, presentations and posters are useful additions to any portfolio, whilst demonstrating ambition and a commitment to learning.

How do you get involved with research within SEM?

As a relatively new and rapidly advancing specialty, research within SEM provides numerous opportunities for student participation. Many hospitals will not have dedicated SEM physicians, but due to the large overlap with other specialties such as orthopaedics and general practice, finding a supervisor with an interest in SEM is surprisingly easy. To date 15 UK universities have a SEM society, providing opportunities to attend lectures and discuss research ideas with speakers. If there is no SEM society are your university, don’t fret! The National Undergraduate Sports and Exercise Medicine Society (USEMS) holds an annual conference, inviting prominent figures within the sports medicine field to discuss their job roles and research interests. Conferences such as this create a platform to approach potential mentors and gain guidance on how to go about research as an undergraduate. USEMS also has a Facebook page, making it even easier to stay up to date with events and developments within SEM.

It’s all well and good taking part in research, but where can you present your findings at an undergraduate level?

As students we have the common misconception that research is only presented at conferences. When not developed with undergraduate attendees in mind, these are often pitched at the wrong level and may be very costly to attend. There are several other platforms which are easy to access as students and much less daunting places to develop presentations skills. Grand rounds occur regularly within most teaching hospitals, these allow a more informal approach to presentation and offer good opportunities for feedback. Regional SEM meetings also encourage student presentations within a supportive environment, not to mention the opportunities for peer education and development of teaching skills. Manchester SEM society runs an annual poster competition for undergraduate SEM projects; the Tom Donaldson Prize. This is a great starting point and shortlisted applicants will present their posters at the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine (BASEM) annual conference.  If you’re still looking further afield, some universities and research centres will provide grants to enable students to attend international conferences, it’s always worth submitting an abstract, you never know where it may take you!

You participated in the 2016 Tom Donaldson poster competition, how did you find the experience?

Participating in the competition enabled me to present my work at the BASEM conference; a prestigious event attended by leading club and national team doctors and expert physicians within the field of SEM.  Whilst presenting my work to individuals of this calibre was challenging it allowed me to establish relationships with professionals who may vitally assist me with future research and career advice. The conference itself featured a vast number of speakers covering a variety of topics from their role in the Olympic games, to development in the treatment of particular musculoskeletal conditions. I also met a number of SEM trainees, who shed more light on the available training pathways and gave me tips to further develop my portfolio. Overall the experience was very rewarding, both educationally and as a networking opportunity. As a final year medical student, I can’t really complain about the prize money either!


Manroy Sahni (@manroysahni) coordinates the BJSM Undergraduate Perspective blog series. He also serves as Education Officer for the Undergraduate Sports and Exercise Medicine Society (USEMS) committee and Co-President of Birmingham University Sports and Exercise Medicine Society (BUSEMS).

Esther Wright is a final year medical student at Birmingham University and a senior committee member of Birmingham University Sports and Exercise Medicine Society (BUSEMS). She has further demonstrated her interest by completing an intercalated BSc in Sport and Exercise Medicine (SEM) at Barts and the London, graduating with First Class honours. Her interest in SEM stems from her own sporting experiences, both as a competitive swimmer and horse rider. She hopes to pursue a career in orthopaedic surgery, whilst maintaining an interest in SEM.

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