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Award and Grant Recipient Feedback

The College offers a number of Awards and Grants each year. The following feedback comes from previous Award and Grant winners.

RCPA Foundation Awards and Grants

RCPA External Awards

2011 RCPA Scholarship in Pathology for Medical Schools - Jonathon Sen

The pathology teaching at ANU by the esteemed members of the pathology team has always been spectacular. The project undertaken as part of the elective to further develop pathology learning materials increases the awareness of the complexities of teaching. Establishing new additions to help subsequent students has been as enjoyable as it has been educational, and is an undertaking that I believe more students should pursue.

The elective program for pathology was incredibly memorable and, perhaps, paradigm shifting; a true eye-opener to the importance and intricacies of pathology testing. I have developed a great appreciation for the work done by the highly skilled members of the pathology department and the many stressors and difficulties they face.

2010 RCPA Scholarship in Pathology for Medical Schools - Christina Cheng

When the RCPA Medical Student Research Scholarship was offered in 2010, I was a second year medical student who, admittedly, had a very limited exposure to the world of pathology. Familiarity with the roles of a pathologist was paltry, with me basically only knowing that pathologists were the (seemingly only) people who understood and interpreted the various histopathology images which we had seen on lecture slides. In all honesty, it did not seem like an exciting specialty to be a part of.

I applied for the scholarship because I wanted to discover more of pathology, to find out why our lecturers in pathology were so passionate about this discipline I knew so little about. As my supervisor, Professor Soon Lee provided me with a list of possible research studies to attach myself to – telling me, however, that it was unimportant which I picked, because what he wanted was for me to attain a broad overview of what it is a pathologist does, and not limit myself to working in a particular study. Thus although my application outlined that I would undertake a project in breast carcinogenesis, most of the work I did was in researching prostate cancer – and even then, this was not the crux of what the scholarship meant to me.

My first introduction to pathology was at Liverpool Hospital. Here I was shown the basics of clinical pathology – from dissecting and processing various surgical resections to analysing actual blocks and slides. This mere introduction was eye-opening – never before had I truly considered what a pathological diagnosis entails, and how important this process was clinically. The highlight of the scholarship opportunity, however, was the exposure to the research arm of pathology. I was able to visit the Ingham Institute at Liverpool and the Bosch Institute at the University of Sydney to see first-hand what various research projects were being undertaken. My participation allowed me to see me how research can be tedious yet rewarding, and also showed me the roles that administration, funding and politics played in the research process. What became apparent was the dedication that each researcher had, and the importance of their work – the passion pathologists had for their work finally made sense.

The medical program has now been adjusted to include a greater exposure to the various aspects of pathology – something I now believe to be fundamental. Although I was unable to follow a research project from start to finish, the RCPA Scholarship has broadened my exposure to pathology, and in doing so has not only concreted my passion for research, but also has brought me back to appreciate what I believe to be the roots of medicine.

Now, two years down the track, I have continued to benefit from my original exposure to pathology in second-year. I am currently undertaking a pathology-based honours project; I am also preparing to embark on a pathology elective in Oxford, UK at the end of this year. I never imagined that the research scholarship would lead to opportunities like this – I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful that it has.

2010 RCPA Scholarship in Pathology for Medical Schools - Leigh Warren

This RCPA research scholarship provided me with the funding to conduct a research project that may not have otherwise been possible. With the means to follow this research from concept to publication and presentation I have been able to immerse myself in the entire research process. This experience has taught me a great deal about many aspects of research and has certainly stimulated me to seek further research opportunities. It has also broadened my exposure to the field of Pathology and what a career in this field might offer. I am very grateful that I was able to receive one of these scholarships and the support of enthusiastic supervisors, in particular Dr Sophie Otto. I hope that these scholarships will continue to encourage medical students to become involved in pathology research for many years to come.

With the Foundation grant I was awarded in 2013, we have designed a study looking at the prevalence of splice site mutations in erythroleukaemia and myelodysplasia. The project was designed around the recent availability of next generation sequencing in our institution, however the final design of the panel of genes has taken longer than anticipated. The panel has been designed and is currently being validated. We aim to test for splice site mutations in bone marrow samples of patients with newly diagnosed erythroleukaemia and MDS, and correlate with morphology and clinical outcome. The potential clinical implications are the discovery of new prognostic markers, targets for measurement of minimal residual disease and as future therapeutic targets.

I look forward to updating the College on our results.

Being a recipient of an RCPA Foundation Travel grant will enable me to travel to the Centre for Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, which provides dedicated forensic neuropathology services for Scotland and is one of the busiest neuropathology practises in Europe. I will have the opportunity to see a wide range of pathologies in both adult and paediatric brains, participate in the examination and reporting of neuropathology cases, visit the National CJD Surveillance and Research Unit and increase my expertise in the field of forensic neuropathology. It will be a fantastic opportunity to work with some of the world’s top neuropathologists including Dr Colin Smith and Professor James Ironside. The Foundation’s support for new Fellows such as myself is extraordinarily generous and it is an honour to have been awarded this grant. It will be of tremendous assistance in allowing me to undertake this further training.

I received the 2013 RCPA foundation Research award for investigation into biomarkers in classical Hodgkin Lymphoma.  Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL) is the most frequent lymphoma seen in young adults with a very high cure rate. As long-term disease control of HL in this age group is becoming the norm, the emerging issue is to minimize treatment related complications in survivors. These include secondary cancer, cardiopulmonary complications, stroke and infertility. The number dying from treatment-related complications exceeds the number dying from HL. The aim of my research is to identify easily measurable biomarkers that can accurately predict and monitor a patient’s response to therapy and guide treatment decisions to minimise long term effects of treatment in those likely to be cured early in treatment. They will also facilitate the identification of those with treatment resistant disease allowing a timely switch in therapy to occur. Early data collected so far appears very promising that we will be able to identify appropriate biomarkers. This type of research is so important for the discipline of pathology to evolve with the changing needs of clinicians in the age of personalised medicine. It is also wonderful, as a pathologist, to be in the position to develop these sorts of tests to offer clinicians, that will have such a profound impact on cancer treatment and quality of life of cancer sufferers.

Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) has always been an elusive disease to study, not only because of the polyclonal nature of the putative antibodies involved, or the heterogeneity of antibody antigenicity between affected individuals, but also the frequent occurrence of non-pathogenic antibodies. With the help of the Kanematsu/Novo Nordisk Award, I had set out to map the epitope of these non-pathogenic antibodies in order to better differentiate them from true pathogenic antibodies associated with clinical disease. But we made some unexpected discoveries along the way that have illuminated the scope of the challenge further than we had anticipated. Our results thus far challenge the accepted dogma that cardiac surgery is associated with a high frequency of non-pathogenic HIT antibodies. Secondly, we have found that some patients who test positive to commercially available ELISA screening assays may have antibodies cross-reacting with nucleic acids rather than heparin. Finally, we have refined a method of expressing and purifying recombinant PF4 that we hope to use to complete our panel of PF4 mutants and thereby determine the antigenic specificity of true non-pathogenic HIT antibodies.