Podiatry student strides to victory as first national prize winner

Date 5.07.2019

A podiatry student has stood apart from her peers after scooping the prize for a first of its kind competition from a prestigious, national health body.

Emily Spence – from Desborough – has just finished the final year of her degree but already has a prize future ahead of her after winning the Podiatric Medicine Clinical Research Award.

Awarded by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Glasgow, this is the first year it has been run by the august medical membership organisation.

The aim of the competition is to encourage undergraduates to engage more with the research side of the profession by asking entrants to submit an academic poster of their own design and a 500-word reflective abstract based upon their third year dissertation projects.

As the winner, Emily had the chance to present her poster at the RCPSG’s office in Glasgow and also received a £300 prize from the College.

Emily explains the thinking behind her dissertation project: “Diabetic patients are prone to problems with their feet and as students we are encouraged to provide such patients with education regarding how to best look after them.

“However, during placements I noticed there appeared to be an inconsistency amongst the ways in which individual clinicians approach patient education.

“I collated the associated literature and set about exploring the views of a small group of patients at the University’s podiatry clinic. The results of the research gave me a clear vision of the ideal education tutorial from the patients’ point of view. This included details such as how long it should last, how often it should be repeated, if the inclusion of images was beneficial and whether or not modern technologies could enhance the process.”

Of her RCPSG award, Emily said: “I know people always say this but I really did not expect to win. When I first saw the email about taking part I was interested but unsure about how to proceed with my application as I had never created an academic poster before. My personal tutor and lecturer-  Lisa Chandler – was very supportive about taking part and encouraged me to do it. Needless to say I’m absolutely thrilled to have won.”

Having thoroughly enjoyed the undergraduate degree, Emily is excited to pursue her career in podiatry and is keen to promote the profession to others: “There’s a lack of awareness about what podiatry is, I have often had people say ‘paediatrics?’ when I initially say what course I am studying. It isn’t a profession many are familiar with but I couldn’t recommend it more. As someone with an interest in science subjects and problem-solving I wanted a career where I could harness these skills and make a difference; with podiatry it’s possible to have an immediate impact on peoples’ lives.

“I heard about the profession and did some work experience with a podiatrist, then I shadowed one of the team at the University’s clinic. I saw there and then that you can meet someone who is in discomfort and see them leave after a short amount of time walking much easier. That instantly appealed to me, to see your expertise helping people right there in front of your eyes.”

For her immediate future, Emily has her sights set on developing her expertise in diabetic foot care and branching out into podiatric surgery: “The great thing about podiatry is that there is a spectrum of specialisms you can go into. When I started my degree, I knew it would be varied with lots of anatomy and a strong hands-on element, but the course at University of Northampton has exceeded my expectations.

“Initially I thought that my passion would be in the sports field of podiatry but the lecturers and modules at Northampton get you to get out there and experience as much as you can about podiatry.

“With a clinic that lets you experience as much podiatry as possible and the sheer breadth of what the course covers, I feel I could not have been in a stronger position for the world of work after graduation. It’s set some incredible foundations for my career.”

Find out more about podiatry at University of Northampton.