Update on our student essay competition

04 Jan 2019

Just before Christmas we closed submission for the student essay competition.

This was the first time we had run such a competition for some years, and to be able to test out a few aspects of this we restricted this one to full time medical students only.

They could be from any country in the world and in any year of study.

The challenge

The essay challenge was to write up to 2,000 words (excluding references and footnotes) on the topic of one of our strategic priorities, which are:

  • Neglected tropical diseases, with a particular focus on their overlap with non-communicable diseases and the sustainable development goals
  • Malaria, with a particular focus on drug resistance
  • One Health and wider planetary health. The consideration of human health alongside animal health, and the environment, in the context of social, economic and political factors
  • Topical issues including, but not limited to, emerging diseases
  • Drug resistant infections

The prize

The winner of the essay competition will win £200 and a year's free student membership of RSTMH.

We had a total of 38 applications before the closing date and these are now being reviewed by members of the Education and Training Committee.

Our plan is to announce the winner of the 2018 Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Student Essay Competition at the Topics in Infection event on 25 January at the British Library.


I wanted to share with you a few of the highlights of this competition, the first we have run for some time. Medical students who applied represent a wide range of countries including Cameroon, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, UK and the US. 

This is a great list and starting point however one of our learnings from this competition is that we need to raise more awareness when we do this again, so that more students from more countries have the opportunity to take part.

We also had a chance to analyse the topics on which the essays were based. We had deliberately set a fairly wide range of potential topics so as not to restrict people's ideas and imagination.

As an example, one of the thematic priorities is planetary health and this could include essays on the environmental, social, political or economic factors that affect human health.

We also have a priority focused on neglected tropical diseases and their intersections with non-communicable diseases. Emerging diseases and drug resistant infections also cover a wide number of possible options.

Areas covered

Having reviewed the entries, we’re pleased to see a good cross section of our priorities. They included individual essays focusing on meningitis, snakebite, sexually transmitted infections, scabies, hepatitis B, Ebola, emerging diseases and outbreaks. There were two essays concentrating on the area of planetary health and three on One Health, which is another important theme of our work.

Four essays covered different aspects of the neglected tropical diseases, with seven looking at drug resistant infections. However, the most popular topic for essays was malaria, with 13 essays in total.

One of the learnings from the using the thematic priorities as the topic ideas is that some of these could be interpreted too widely, and perhaps we need to look at a more explicit set of potential topics next time.

Our plan is to now assess these entries and announce our winner, and potentially highly commended authors also, in the next few weeks.

Plans for the future

Looking forwards, we will consider our wider pool of global health students for the next essay competition.

This is a far wider group of individuals, with disciplines including anything from economics to engineering, geography to anthropology and international development.

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