Yitka’s healthy ideas earn prestigious prize

The Northern Echo: PRIZE WIN: Yitka Graham, left, receives her award from Moira Howie, Waitrose head of nutrition PRIZE WIN: Yitka Graham, left, receives her award from Moira Howie, Waitrose head of nutrition

A STUDENT’S essay on safeguarding the health of an ageing population with tight budgets and a growing population with chronic conditions has landed her a national prize.

Yitka Graham has clinched joint third prize for her entry into the College of Medicine’s essay competition, which attracts entries from across the UK.

The top two prizes were awarded to Oxford University and University College London (UCL).

The Sunderland University student impressed judges with her ideas around the topic, which focused on what strategies health practitioners can encourage for healthy ageing at a time of constricted health budgets and a rapidly- growing population of service users with multiple long-term chronic conditions.

Ms Graham, who is in the final year of a BSc community and public health degree, was successful against competition from 80 other students to land a £200 prize, half of which she has donated to the university department which she says has helped inspire her work. Her prize also includes a free place at the COM annual conference.

In its third year, the COM competition is open to all students in the UK studying a clinical healthcare subject at undergraduate level or above.

The college is an organisation which brings doctors and other health professionals together with patients and scientists.

“My essay was based on personal experience when I carried out a six-month placement with an over-70s group in Consett,” explained Canadian- born Ms Graham, who lives in County Durham.

“I used a lot of what I learnt from this group as practical examples, expanded with references.”

Ms Graham received her award at the College of Medicine’s annual conference at the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in London.

She said: “I was thrilled to receive this award, but its real value really hit me when I was at the awards ceremony and Sunderland’s name flashed up on a large screen alongside Oxford and UCL in an auditorium packed with high-profile guests from the medical profession.

“This was not just a win for me, but for the university and the department.”

She added: “After a career as a pharmaceutical rep in women’s healthcare, I wanted to link this experience to studying public health, where you can have a greater influence.

“Since joining the course at the university, I’ve never looked back. I absolutely love the course and am hoping to pursue postgraduate study here at Sunderland.”

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