Every year, the Foundation is proud to support the summer studentship programmes of the University of Otago, Christchurch and the University of Canterbury. These $5,000 scholarships allow students to take a first up and close look at the ins and outs of a research project, under the supervision of senior, established career researchers. Below are this year’s students from the University of Otago, Christchurch and their respective projects.

Lorna Pairman – An Indication for Every Medicine
Supervisors: Associate Professor Matt Doogue, Dr Paul Chin
Lorna Pairman

Treatment failure or adverse drug effects because of poor medication prescribing contribute significantly to health costs and hospitalizations. This summer I will be completing the research project “An indication for every medicine” which aims to analyse the frequency and validity of medication indications in hospital medication charts and discharges. To do this I will first use software such as SPSS and Tableau to analyse the data, then use multivariable analysis to determine factors associated with poor prescribing indications and adverse outcomes. Last year, my summer internship was such a rewarding experience that I wanted to further my research in the clinical area. I wanted to focus on improving clinical outcomes and my project this year should fulfil this. Gaining new skills using software that I am unfamiliar with will be a challenge which I am looking forward to. I hope to broaden my research and presentation experience as well as work in a clinical setting before entering ALM4 next year at Christchurch Hospital. – Lorna Pairman

Otis Williams – Gender based differences in the bedside consultation; innate behaviours or learned?
Supervisors: Paul Bridgman, Cardiologist and Isla Evison, Medical student

Otis Williams

Studying medicine gives a first-hand view of the impact that science has on the people’s lives, and integrating research is a great opportunity to contribute to the process. I have always been fascinated with the methods of science, and through conducting research I hope to better understand how we know what we know. Our project builds on Isla Evison’s research from last year that found male cardiologists have shorter consultation times with male patients compared to other gender combinations. I will be investigating the effects of patient doctor gender mismatch in cardiology ward rounds and digging deeper to observe whether this discordance influences outcomes and what factors, if any, modify the effect. I am most excited about being able to observe experienced physicians treating patients and exploring important questions relating to equality and bias. – Otis Williams

Nasya Thompson – Apathy and executive function in Parkinson’s disease
Supervisors: Dr Campbell Le Heron, Dr Michael Macaskill
Nasya Thompson

My name is Nasya Thompson and I am undertaking a summer research project with Dr Campbell Le Heron and Dr Michael Macaskillin the NZ Brain Research Institute. Prior to studying medicine, I completed a Bachelor of Science Honour’s degree, in which I was able to get a small taste of what being involved in research was like. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and knew that I wanted to maintain some involvement in research. After reading about Dr Campbell Le Heron’s research surrounding apathy in Parkinson’s disease, I was excited to be involved in such an intriguing topic and for the chance to develop my skills as a researcher. The aim of my summer studentship is to broaden our understanding of the different causes of apathy in PD by examining the relationship of executive functions (working memory, cognitive flexibility, planning) –which are also disrupted in PD –to the development of apathy. I would also like to thank the CMRF for funding this project and making all of this possible. – Nasya Thompson

Valery Liu – Donor variation and optimisation of 3D cell culture system for cartilage tissue regeneration
Supervisors: Dr Grabriella Lindberg, Professor Tim Woodfield
Valery Liu

Kia ora! My name is Valery Liu and I am currently a fourth year medical student at the University of Otago -Christchurch. As a post-graduate student who had previously completed a Bachelors in Biomedical sciences, I have always found research to be absolutely fascinating and more importantly, essential to scientific progression. Participating in research continuously pushes me to think out-side the box and it trains me to think critically and holistically. I have always had a special interest in bioengineering which is a key reason that drew me to the research project titled “Donor variation and optimisation of 3D cell culture system for cartilage tissue regeneration”. With guidance from my supervisors, Professor Tim Woodfield and Dr Gabriella Lindberg from the CReaTE research group, I have the task of identifying cellular performance (in cartilage cells/chondrocytes) differences between Māori and non-Māori patients and subsequently optimise the 3D-scaffolds used to guide the cartilage tissue repair process. Through this particular project, I will have the opportunity to learn a broad variety of techniques as well as the opportunity to learn more about research with a bioengineering focus. – Valery Liu

Grace Sullivan – Can cervical cancer be prevented by the treatment of precancers?
Supervisors: Associate Professor Peter Sykes, Dr Helene McNabb
Grace Sullivan

I have chosen to do research as I am very passionate about women’s health and the need for evidence-based progress in medical care for women in NZ. I am also specifically interested in gynaecological oncology, and this project gives me a great opportunity to not only learn about but also contribute to the field. Working with the research team in the O&G department at Christchurch Women’s Hospital, I am looking forward to learning skills which I will be able to utilise for the rest of my career. This year we are undertaking an audit of follow-up of women who have received treatment for precancerous cervical changes, as guidelines have recently changed from hospital-based follow-up to community-based follow-up. From this, we hope to determine whether the rates of follow-up have changed with the change in guidelines and use this information to inform local policy. – Grace Sullivan

Shistata Dhakal – The costs of eating disorders in New Zealand
Supervisors: Dr Jennifer Jordan, Professor Lois Surgenor
Shistata Dhakal

Choosing to do research over the summer was because I want to expand my research skills and knowledge. Currently my only experience is from labs at university, which is quite limited. Being actively involved in the process will allow me to expand my understanding on conducting research, and enhance my skills. I am particularly excited for this as most of the labs/courses revolved around pre-existing procedures/ experiments, so to be working on modified/new methods is exciting. Additionally, as the research is about the costs (direct and indirect) of eating disorders in Aotearoa, I am hoping to learn more about the impacts of this psychological disorder. Finally, being able to utilise more complex statistical techniques within this project will hopefully allow me to understand the more complex statistics used in psychological research. – Shistata Dhakal.

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