In this week’s blog we hear why Polly Moyer – founder of Action for MdDS UK – loves judging our Student Voice essay competition and her top tips for those raring to take part in our recently launched 2018 round.

The first time I was asked to join the judging panel for Findacure’s Student Voices essay competition I thought of it as another opportunity to give something back to Findacure who have done so much to support me, over several years.  My GP, knowing that scrolling can hike MdDS symptom levels, thought I was bonkers to accept this challenge but also understood that doing something life-affirming was crucial for me at that time.  Reading the entries was inspiring and gave me a much needed boost.  My confidence in the medical profession had taken a big knock – these essays helped restore it and gave me great hope for the future of medicine.

Observing how this competition has developed since then has given it a very special place in my heart.  Last year the competition opened its doors to international entrants, which brought some interesting new perspectives.  This year entrants have the chance to engage with patient groups which should prove empowering for all concerned – empowerment being fundamental to the ethos of Findacure.

So, ‘What do you look for in these essays and what are your top tips?’ I hear you ask …  Well, I can’t speak for all the judges but there are some key points for me.

  • Address the topic you’ve chosen.  This may seem obvious but many a good essay has missed the mark because the authors haven’t answered the question posed, or have deviated too far from the topic.
  • You’re writing for people who are ‘rare aware’ so although you need to discuss the general statistics around rare conditions, you don’t need to go into extensive detail about this.  Instead, look for imaginative ways to present the common issues for rare patient populations.
  • Tell a story and let the readers hear your voice.  The time for dry, impersonal research papers comes later in your career.  This competition is a chance to put your passion into words and make a connection.  Read it out loud to someone and ask if it resonates with them on more than a factual level.  Previous winners have gone on to give compelling presentations at conferences, reflecting the tone of their entries and the importance of their narratives.

It remains a huge honour for me to be on the judging panel for this contest.  I can’t wait to read your entries and hope you enjoy writing them as much as I enjoy reading them.  Good luck!

If you are an undergraduate or masters student who dares to think rare, visit our 2018 Student Voice essay competition to find out how you can take part and be in for a chance of winning fantastic prizes! The competition is open for entries until Monday 12th November.