Sita is a final year medical student who has just successfully completed all of her exams and will be starting as an F1 doctor in August. Before starting work, she is spending a month with the neurology and MS team, learning more about both how we diagnose and MS in the hospital, and aspects of the clinical research that we are doing. She’s written a blog post reflecting on what she’s been doing so far.
My name is Sita, and I am a final year medical student at Barts & The London. As part of my elective, I have been doing some work within the Preventive Neurology Unit. Over the past week I have been contacting people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) to recruit patients for our MS blood spot study. For those that haven’t heard of this, it is a study looking at COVID-19 antibodies in people with MS and whether these levels differ according to treatment type. I may have even spoken to some of you over the phone (if so, hello!). I thought for this blog post, it would be nice for me to share my experience and reflections on this process.
As medical students, we read multiple research papers. Papers contain several graphs and tables – it sometimes seems that the numbers are endless. The questions commonly asked are “Are the results statistically significant?” and “What do these findings mean for clinical practice?”. From my experience, I have usually been involved in the data analysis or data collection stage of research projects. The focus we place on learning how to read a paper and the analytics, means that we can sometimes be guilty of neglecting the personal element and human effort behind the process – only appreciating the findings of the research.
This was my first time being involved in the recruitment process, and I really enjoyed it! I have greatly missed talking to patients during the first wave of Covid-19. When we returned to placements after the first wave, patient contact was very limited, even for final year medical students; so, I relished the opportunity to interact with patients once again. I have been calling people with MS to provide them with more details about what the study entails and then collecting necessary information from those wanting to partake.
I found there was overwhelming enthusiasm and eagerness to participate in this study. People were undeterred when I revealed that, unfortunately, it would not be possible for participants to find out their own antibody status. Even people who had expressed concerns about the sight of blood and having to collect their own blood via finger-prick were still more than happy to attempt it and see how they coped. In the three days I have spent calling people, I would estimate that over 90% of people agreed to take part! Some of you even spoke to me about other trials you were taking part in. It was so lovely to hear how involved you all are with the research.
When a paper comes out, researchers and authors involved with the study often get praise – rightly so. But I think it’s important to also acknowledge the study participants. The reason behind research is to improve the lives of those the condition affects, and without the eagerness and effort of those affected, we would not even be able to conduct a trial – thank you! For me, it’s nice to be able to put a name to the data!
Disclaimer: please note that the opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not reflect the positions of the Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, nor Barts Health NHS Trust or Queen Mary University London