This year, we launched an essay competition among medical students in the UK to raise awareness about the importance of fundamental diseases. Students had to pick one of four titles and write an essay of no more than 1,500 words to enter the competition for the chance to win £250 and a place at our upcoming scientific conference. The submitted essays were anonymised and judged by members of our scientific advisory board.

The winning essay was submitted by Rosemary Grain, who is in her 4th year at King’s College London. It was described by judge Dr Andrew Tee as a “thought provoking review,” which “kept [him] intrigued from start to finish.” See below for an extract of the essay.

‘Rare diseases can be very frightening for sufferers and their families. When very few people are afflicted with a disease, little may be known about how best to treat it. Policymakers and scientists understandably seek to develop treatments for common diseases which affect large numbers of people such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, cancers and diabetes. As a result a substantial amount of research funding goes into discovering more about these illnesses, while rare diseases receive less funding. For example, the National Institute for Health Research, funded by the Department of Health, is providing £5 million per year to a translational research group for all rare diseases1 , compared to £36 million for a similar group for dementia2. However, studying rare diseases can provide insight into the mechanisms of common diseases. One example of this is the disease Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS, commonly known as Progeria).’ Click here to read the full essay.

The second highest scoring essay belongs to Benjamin Ng, who is in his 2nd year at the University of Sheffield. The judges commended his quality of writing and high level of scientific understanding. Click here to read his essay.

Alongside these two high scoring essays, several judges highlighted a third essay due to its excellent communication of the challenges faced by a patients and friends. Therefore, we would like to award a second runner-up position to Anne Fitzgibbon from University College London RUMS. Click here to read her essay.

We would like to thank everyone who applied to the competition, the essays were of a very high quality. And congratulations to our three winning writers!