We are nearly halfway through the submission period for our essay competition! In this week’s blog, Polly Moyer shares why she believes encouraging medical students to think, investigate and discuss rare is important.

In 2014 I was invited to take part in a ‘patient narrative’ event with some first year medical students at University College, London. I was asked to discuss my experiences in the NHS and empower the students to practice their communication skills by encouraging them to ask questions. At the time I was very ill and very sad. But spending time with these students gave me hope for the future. They were attentive, curious and concerned – all the things my (now ex) doctor wasn’t being.

This made it easy to encourage them to think about the impact of having an ‘orphan’ condition and what this means for patients and their doctors. So, with one week to go before the deadline, I told them about the inaugural BM Manifesto Essay Competition. Did I metaphorically jump for joy when one of them won a Highly Commended award for her submission? Oh yes. Her understanding of the challenges of ‘living rare’ came from her personal experience of helping her friend negotiate the pragmatic and psychological issues involved and it moved me deeply. All the essays I read from that year, and the following one, demonstrated that their authors have high standards, a lot to offer and a firm grip on what counts as rigorous research.

Since then I’ve had the honour of being invited to be part of the judging panel for this years’ competition. It’s a big responsibility because BM Manifesto have negotiated publishing opportunities for the winner. But I’m up for it. These young, talented and receptive women and men are our future. I will do my best for them.

The 2016 Rare Diseases Day theme was ‘Patient Voices’ and next year it will be ‘Research’. The BM Manifesto Essay Competition adds a third, crucial, dimension – student voices.

The deadline for this year’s student essay competition is at 9:00am on Monday 14th November. Undergraduate, masters and clinical students are welcome to choose from three essay questions. The winner of each question will be awarded £100 and entry to our Rare Disease Day Conference, and the overall winner will win another £100 and publication in a scientific journal! Why not give it a go?