This year’s School of Medicine Research Away Day, saw the return of the School’s very own Dragons’ Den competition where early career researchers had the opportunity to pitch research ideas to win £5000 to support their project. SCREDS Lecturer, Dr Obaid Kousha was awarded £5000 for the NHS research stream and PhD Student, Emma Gale received the School award.
This year’s contestants presented to the panel of Dragon’s consisting of Prof Peter Donnelly, Dr Jane Illes, Dr Robert Hammond and Dr Morag Mansley.
While the Dragon’s were impressed by the calibre of this year’s entrants, they were particularly excited by the research ideas of Kousha and Gale.
Dr Kousha, an Ophthalmologist at NHS Tayside, joined the School of Medicine in 2020 as Scottish Clinical Research Excellence Development Scheme (SCREDS) Lecturer. Kousha began his pitch by explaining that Scotland holds a unique data set of vision records collected since 2012 of every child as part of a Scottish Government initiative to screen children for vision abnormalities. This extensive screening has been carried out by Orthopists using the same standardised proforma meaning Scotland holds information on vision health of approximately 500,000 children. In other parts of the UK, this type of assessment varies from Local Authority and therefore lacks homogeneity.
The data is managed by the Electronic Data, Research and Innovation Service (eDRIS), part of Public Health Scotland. Kousha, would like to use the money to facilitate the extraction of the data, in accordance with data governance regulations, by going through the Public Benefit and Privacy Panel for Health and Social Care to access the data and provide software for analysis. With the data, Kousha plans to research what is ‘normal’ vision for a child and assess the magnitude of vision problems. Additionally, Kousha hopes to look into the socio-economic factors in relation to vision impairments. The first participants of the screening will now have completed their education and, in future, Kousha hopes to look to see if there is a correlation between visual impairment and education achievement. Kousha also spoke very enthusiastically about the SCREDS lectureship at St Andrews which he described as “an amazing programme” which enables him to carry out research.
Emma Gale, a PhD student at the School of Medicine, is researching sleep and obesity in adolescence. Emma is due to complete two systematic reviews and secondary data analysis of the Growing Up in Scotland cohort data looking at relevant sleep and adiposity parameters. Emma proposed a primary research study, with around 50 participants, looking at modifiable determinants of sleep and obesity that could be used to design a health-promoting intervention in adolescents. The Dragon’s Den grant funding will be used to purchase actiwatches that will allow the measure of objective sleep, which is lacking in current literature. This research will be conducted under the supervision of Dr Joanne Cecil and Dr Andrew Williams.
Emma studied Human Biology at the University of Birmingham, where her interest in sleep medicine began, and she wrote her final year thesis on sleep in patients with neurodegenerative disease. From there, Emma went to study for an MSc at the University of Oxford in Sleep Medicine. Emma, who recently moved to St Andrews, spoke positively of her experience at the School, stating the “supervision here has been perfect.”
We look forward to following the research of our Dragons’ Den Competition Winners which we are sure will have enrichening impact.