Our first cohort of Veterinary Evidence Student Award winners tell us how they found the process of writing their first Knowledge Summary, their thoughts on winning and having their papers published, and some advice for students thinking of applying to this year’s round of the competition.
1st place – Molly Vasanthakumar
I had always been interested in sustainability within the veterinary profession, but struggled to find a platform where I could further my knowledge and present it to a wider audience. So when the email was circulated about the Veterinary Evidence Student Awards, a few of my lecturers suggested that I use it as an opportunity to research and write about something I was passionate about.
Choosing draping materials as a topic felt very important to me. I was so frustrated at seeing disposable drapes used widely and almost without thought that I felt that the Knowledge Summary would answer my own question and be relevant and informative to many other vets and nurses.
As I felt so passionate about the topic, I wanted to make sure that my Knowledge Summary was not biased; change can be generated much more effectively when the argument is well structured and based on evidence.
The process of writing the Knowledge Summary was great; the EBVM Toolkit on the RCVS Knowledge website was particularly useful. The toolkit broke down the process into achievable steps and gave me a solid basis for answering my question.
I was over the moon when I heard I had won the competition. I heard the week before my graduation and it added to my excitement and sense of achievement! The support and positive comments I have received from the editors, my lecturers and peers have given me a huge amount of confidence to continue researching and writing about the topic, and the competition has provided me with the skills to be able to do that. I am currently full of ideas for future Knowledge Summaries and research projects, and I hope that during my career I can continue to make decisions that are based on the best available evidence, and positively impact animals, humans and the ecosystem.
2nd place – Honoria Brown
I have always been especially interested in the research side of veterinary medicine, so I jumped at the opportunity to gain first-hand experience with the Veterinary Evidence Student Awards.
My interest in my topic began several years ago when I took on an old pony with chronic laminitis. Through the ups and downs of caring for her, I came to realise just how little we know about the disease. Since I wanted her to be able to graze at pasture as much as possible without developing laminitis again, I was required to fine-tune my monitoring practices. After doing some research, I was immediately surprised by the scarcity of published knowledge on such methods. Therefore it made sense to me to write a Knowledge Summary to bring together this information and to present it in a more practically-useful way.
For me, the first part of the writing process was surprisingly difficult. Whilst I was used to searching databases for papers, I was not used to doing so methodologically. The summary obviously demands reproducibility, which instead required me to carefully consider and log all of my search terms. Then came the act of meticulously picking apart the methods used in the studies, which really tested my evaluation skills and confidence in my own judgement. As someone who can get enthusiastic over small details, perhaps my biggest challenge was to critically select the points that were really necessary to address my topic!
It was a very humbling moment when I found out that my Knowledge Summary had won an award. It confirmed to me that I am independently able to choose and explore a relevant topic, and that my input is of value to the veterinary field. For anyone who is interested in the evidence-based side of veterinary medicine, I would highly recommend writing your own Knowledge Summary – I will for sure be looking for another opportunity to write another!
3rd place – Jacqueline Oi Ping Tong
I have a habit of browsing various Facebook groups about pet care as I am always interested in owners’ concerns and their initiatives to improve animal health. I recognised that the use of probiotic in dogs with diarrhoea is one of the common topics among owners, and it seemed that there was a difference of opinion. This inspired me to write a Knowledge Summary about the use of probiotics, and see if there is any relevant scientific evidence.
The whole writing process was really challenging, as expected. I think the hardest part was to apply the evidence to everyday practice, and consider the perspectives of both clinicians and owners. I wished to have a taste of how a paper gets published and tried to produce a publishable paper in the first instance. I never thought of winning this award, as I am still at the very early stage of my veterinary career, so I was so surprised when I heard the news!
I would say the experience itself means more to me than the award; I used to believe a claim easily when it was supported by a paper. Yet, the strength of the evidence, as well as whether the clinical impacts are great enough, are critical.
It was a nice opportunity to learn how to appraise the evidence, and I will have a careful look at it when I need to make decisions later in my career. Indeed this experience has boosted my confidence in engaging in EBVM and it has also made me realise its importance to the veterinary community. I will try to write more Knowledge Summaries in the future, for sure – I have already started brainstorming the next topic.