The Student Voice essay competition

Our annual essay competition raises rare disease awareness and highlights patient challenges among the doctors and researchers of tomorrow

Modern healthcare headlines are dominated by cancer, diabetes, and the obesity crisis, leaving little room for the plethora of rare genetic conditions that affect patients worldwide. However, with the rise of personalised medicine, rare disease diagnoses will become increasingly common. Sadly, there is little time to study these rare conditions at university, leaving medical students and scientists unprepared to deal with the complex needs of rare disease patients.

The Student Voice essay competition raises the profile of rare diseases among trainee doctors and scientists. It encourages them to consider rare diseases for the first time or share their personal experience of rare conditions. With the winning entries published by our partners at BioMed Central, the best essays have a chance to make a real impact on the work of medical professionals.

Don’t just take our word for it – meet Becki

Becki is a medical student studying at the University of Cambridge, aspiring to become a paediatrician. Alongside managing her lectures, labs and learning, Becki also lives with a rare connective tissue disorder called Ehler’s Danlos syndrome, which can have a profound impact on her energy levels and movement. In 2016 she entered “The Student Voice” competition, using her unique perspective as both a doctor and rare disease patient to write a fantastic essay tackling the relationship between rare diseases and mental health, entitled “It’s not all in my head!”. She was selected as our overall winner, which led to her article being published in the Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases, a position on the panel at Findacure’s annual conference, and a talk at the Students 4 Rare Diseases conference.

“I think Findacure’s work in raising awareness of rare diseases amongst medical students is really important – they aren’t featured often enough in our curriculum. The essay competition has definitely helped me become more aware of some of the issues in looking after rare disease patients, and has made me consider going into this area for a career. I’m really grateful for the opportunities it has provided.”

How it works

Open annually for six weeks starting in October, the competition poses three questions that encourage students to think about the patient experience of rare diseases, and the ways that doctors and researchers can improve it.

The competition is open to medical students, biology undergraduates, and biology masters students worldwide. All are invited to answer one of our three questions in less than 1,500 words, in a style accessible to all rare disease stakeholders. Entries are judged by a panel of rare disease experts and patients. They pick a winning essay for each question, one of which is declared the overall winner.

Each winning essay receives a cash prize, and free entry to Findacure’s annual conference, Drug Repurposing for Rare Diseases. Furthermore in 2015, Findacure began a partnership with BMC’s Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases, giving the winner of the competition the chance to become a published author. Support from Students 4 Rare Diseases, now Medics 4 Rare Diseases, has also ensured that our winners receive opportunities to get more involved in the student rare disease community.

How do I get involved?

We will announce the 2018 round of The Student Voice in September. So check back here then to find the competition’s new landing page to begin preparing your entry. In the meantime why not read some of our past winners for inspiration?

University representatives
Spread the word about the competition around your department, and encourage your students to engage in the world of rare diseases.

We are always on the lookout for sponsors to help make our competition a reality. If you are interested in supporting The Student Voice 2018, visit our corporate giving page to learn more.

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With thanks to our past sponsors:

With thanks to our past sponsors:

With thanks to our past sponsors:

Past competitions

The Student Voice 2017

The Student Voice 2017 saw an increased focus on the patient experience of rare diseases. You can find out about the fourth instalment of the competition by reading our review of the competition, or reviewing the winning articles in full.

A further entrants’ essays was selected for publication as a blog by our competition judges.

Collaboration is helping medical professionals and patients with rare diseases to face their challenges – by George Wood

The Student Voice 2016

The Student Voice 2016 saw a continuation of our partnership with the Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases. You can find out about the third instalment of the competition by reading our review of the competition and three winning entries..

The Student Voice 2015

The second edition of our essay competition saw Findacure partner with BMC’s Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases for the first time. Read our review of the competition and winning entries below.

A further two entrants had their articles published as blogs on the On Biology website.

I’m a teenager – do I care if my disease is rare? – by Harriette Pearson

Rare disease research helps us understand medicine for all diseases – by Jeremy Reid

Essay Competition 2014

Our first essay competition was run in 2014, with the idea conceived by one of Findacure’s first interns.

Winner – Rosemary Grain
How has the study of rare diseases influenced our knowledge of more common diseases?

Runner-up – Benjamin Ng
How has the study of rare diseases influenced our knowledge of more common diseases?

Runner-up – Anne Fitzgibbon
Discuss how experiences of a patient with a rare disease may differ from those of a patient with a common disease