Maria Charalambides (LEH 08-15)
Medical student Maria put her Emerging Talent Award 2019 towards funding an exciting research and clinical placement at the largest clinical dermatology department in the UK.
COVID-19 has not only taught us the importance of community, social responsibility (a concept I fondly remember discussing when studying An Inspector Calls in my English literature classes at LEH) and benevolence, but also adaptability. Just like many people’s plans for the Spring and Summer months, mine too were affected.
With the generous support of LEH Alumnae, I was scheduled and eager to attend an exciting research and clinical placement at St John’s Institute of Dermatology, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, a world-renowned dermatology specialist institution and the largest clinical dermatology department in the United Kingdom in May 2020 for my medical elective after my penultimate year of medical school.
I was very much looking forward to gaining exposure to key national multi-centre atopic eczema trials such as the Treatment of Severe Atopic Eczema Trial (TREAT) trial, with aim of identifying the most efficacious and tolerable treatments to control the physical and psychological impacts of the disease, and ensuring patients are not limited by their condition. I was also scheduled to attend severe paediatric atopic eczema clinics where children are on novel systemic medications that require close regulation and specialist input.
Amongst the countless acts of selfless heroism in hospitals and care homes, my elective supervisors and clinical staff at St John’s were also experiencing a vast change in their clinical and research work, with many deported to the COVID frontlines. Despite my supervisors facing extreme work challenges, they were nevertheless keen to offer their invaluable guidance and support and give me the opportunity to undertake two research projects on topical and important areas of investigation that face controversy.
One project focussed on exploring suicide and Isotretinoin for acne, and the other on comparing varying doses of the medication and their efficacies. The aim was to identify the most up‐to‐date, high‐quality available evidence using thorough structured methods and present conclusions that can inform clinicians and patients. The projects were each split into four main sections reflecting the four main steps of the process: formulation of a focused question, based on a real-life clinical scenario, a systematic search for the most relevant and highest‐quality evidence, critical appraisal of the evidence and application of the results back to the patient scenario. The overall aim of these projects is to improve patient care on an international scale by spreading and sharing knowledge with colleagues through publication in the evidence‐based dermatology section of the British Journal of Dermatology.
Through undertaking these projects, I have developed invaluable clinical and research skills that I can carry forward to the rest of my career; I endeavour to pursue both a clinical and academic career in dermatology. Despite these unprecedented times, I endeavoured to approach all the challenges it brought with grace and integrity, as LEH had always taught me, and approached my altered elective period with positivity and enthusiasm to make a difference to patient care in the long-term.
I encourage pupils to discover their passions and talents, grasp opportunities and challenges, and not shy away from pursuing academia and science. At a time where we have been confronted by the true vulnerability of human life, it has been inspirational to see the LEH community spirit thrive – the warm support for the NHS and generosity of the staff, pupils and parents at LEH has been touching during these difficult times.
I am incredibly grateful for this wonderful opportunity from the LEH Alumnae Board. I feel extremely proud to be part of the all-encompassing LEH community, which continues to support its pupils beyond their school years.