Sunderland university student writes award-winning essay on improving health services

Sunderland University prize winning science student Yitka Graham (blonde) who has handed over money from her win to the department as a thank you for the help she received from staff on the course. l to r Dr Lyn Brierley Jones, Caron Walker and Dr Catherine Hayes

Sunderland University prize winning science student Yitka Graham (blonde) who has handed over money from her win to the department as a thank you for the help she received from staff on the course. l to r Dr Lyn Brierley Jones, Caron Walker and Dr Catherine Hayes

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A STUDENT’S essay about improving the health service has landed her a national prize.

Yitka Graham considered a way to tackle the health of an ageing population against tight budgets in her award-winning piece.

The piece clinched Yikita joint third prize for her entry to the College of Medicine’s (Com) prestigious Essay Competition, which attracts entries from across the UK.

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

Yitka, who is in the final year of a BSc Community and Public Health degree, fought off competition from 80 other students to land the £200 prize, half of which she has donated to the university department which she says has helped inspire her work.

Now 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.

Yitka has also recently been appointed to as a member of the Student Council of the College of Medicine, a group which is comprised of students from across the UK.

“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 Yitka, who now lives in County Durham. “I used a lot of what I learned from this group as practical examples, expanded with references.”

Yitka received her award at the Com’s Annual Conference at the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in London, earlier this month.

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 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.

“I truly believe in education and the cheque was just a way of giving something back to the university to benefit other students.

“It was also to show my deepest appreciation and gratitude to my two tutors Dr Catherine Hayes, who encouraged me to enter the essay, and Caron Walker, as well as the rest of the Department.

“I have had a life-changing year at Sunderland and look forward to many more.”

Tony Alabaster, associate dean in the university’s Faculty of Applied Sciences, said: “This award is yet further evidence that our students can compete at national level and is testimony to Yitka’s drive and determination to not only succeed on a personal level, but to put something back into this university as recognition for the outstanding support that has been provided.”

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