Supporting students as researchers: MBChB Year 4 Student Selected Component

close up image of three students sitting at a table in a library

Over the past 10 years Professor Harry Campbell, Professor Igor Rudan and Dr Harish Nair have supervised the individual projects of over 100 MbChB year 4 students on 13-week individual student projects in International Child Health SSC4 attachments.

Throughout, the philosophy has been to select projects which addressed topical problems and which could have “real life impact.” Students were encouraged and supported not only to complete their SSC4 report but to present their findings to international agencies and publish in international peer reviewed journals.

About 70 of the students were authors on more than 50 publications in international peer reviewed journals indexed on PubMed (mostly as lead authors). These include – Lancet [JIF 39.6], Lancet Infectious Diseases [JIF 18.1], Journal of the National Cancer Institute [14.3], American Journal of Human Genetics [JIF 12.5], and International Journal of Epidemiology [7.0]

More than 20 students made oral presentations at international meetings including at WHO (Geneva) on 3 separate occasions, UNICEF (New York and Florence), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation meetings (Croatia and Edinburgh), International meeting on neonatal sepsis (Dehli).

The students authored a series of publications in the Journal of Tropical Pediatrics under the heading “Evidence behind the WHO guidelines” which was the most highly downloaded section of the journal for some time. The achievements of the collaboration were presented to the WHO child health programme in Geneva by one of the students.

The students led the formation of the “International Child Health Review Collaboration (ICHRC),” initially in partnership with University of Melbourne and then with several international partner institutions. They also created an ICHRC website) which posted up evidence based reviews in international child health and acted as a resource for education / training and audit in International Child Health. Edinburgh students designed the initial site, wrote the HTML code, registered the site and maintained the content for several years. ICHRC added to the evidence basis behind World Health Organisation guidelines for use by paediatric doctors, nurses and other child health workers in Developing Countries.

The students took part in the formation of the EU Global Health Society which runs regular events on global health topics and has a mailing list of more than 250 students. It helps contribute to the Journal of Global Health which is run from Edinburgh. This journal is published in print and online 6 months and has published 10 editions to date. It is indexed by PubMed and has an ISI impact factor of 3.6. The Society has raised funding to support a series of student internships at WHO Geneva in the past few years.

Some students have prepared online training materials, participated in training and given peer support to subsequent students and have been encourage to link up with international experts in the field of their review.

All students passed their SSC4 assignments, with many achieving A grades and some held as examples of good practice; feedback has been very positive with many students keeping in touch after graduation and continuing to collaborate on global child health projects.

Edinburgh students are very able and, when motivated with an interest in a particular topic, can produce publishable work of a very high quality and can contribute to tackling outstanding research questions and health challenges. They have also been shown themselves to be more than capable of sharing this experience and passing on the skills to subsequent students.

Harry Campbell

Harry Campbell is Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Public Health and Co-Director of the Centre for Global Health Research and of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Population Health Research and Training at the University of Edinburgh.

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