Wednesday, 14 December 2016

SPHPM 2016 Summer Vacation Program includes a starring TV role

We asked Summer Vac Program participant, Ellie Tsiamis, to be our guest blogger this week to fill us in on her time on with SPHPM. Ellie just graduated with a Bachelor of Biomedical Science.

When I began the SPHPM Summer Vac Program, I knew that the next four weeks would be filled with many exciting opportunities to learn and develop skills. However, I did not expect my experience would include being involved in an ABC Four Corners filming for an upcoming episode on complementary medicines.

My first encounter with a filming crew was not as daunting as anticipated and the ABC Four Corners staff were very supportive of a natural and relaxed setting. I and fellow students Tiana Moutafis, Sasha Hall, Ed Cheong were asked to speak about the current issues surrounding complementary medicines and the ‘Whack-a-mole’ project; we had undertaken this project along with other BMS3052 students earlier this year with our teacher Associate Professor Ken Harvey

The project involved students being assigned complementary medicines to research and gather information to determine if the products had breached any sections of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising code (2015), provided any misleading or incorrect information, or breached the national advertising code. 

As a group we held the perception that the majority of complementary medicinal products are taking advantage of the lack of knowledge of consumers and making a profit from products that have not been proven for efficacy (thus not known to do anything more than provide a placebo-effect for consumers). 

Associate Professor Harvey advocates that a key issue is the regulatory system, stating we need a “regulatory system with teeth”, as the current system is overworked, overloaded and under-resourced. While we have the codes and laws around advertising, when these rules are broken there is not an effective and efficient system to enforced consequences. My analogy of this is that it is like having red lights without red light cameras. 

Overall this was fantastic experience and I was pleased to share my view on this issue and my acquired knowledge from the whack-a-mole project with Four Corners. The episode is expected to air in early February – I hope that it helps fill the gaps in lack of consumer knowledge so that our trust in alternative and complementary medicines is no longer abused. 

In addition to learning invaluable research skills, another aspect of the Summer Vac Program is the hands on experience with the ASPiVLU (ASPirin in Venous Leg Ulcer healing) study I have been fortunate enough to have. This study is recruiting participants for randomised double-blind multicentre placebo-controlled clinical trial from multiple wound clinics. Also, to take advantage of the participants not eligible or not willing to participate in the RCT, an observational cohort study has been created. 

Throughout the duration of the Summer Vac Program, I have had two visits to the wound clinic at the Austin Repatriation Hospital where I have accompanied a research assistant from our team in recruiting patients for either of these studies. This was a very fast paced environment and I was learning on the go. After consent was given, I assisted in checking medical histories, observing and recording patient assessment data, and also asking participants questions to complete our survey. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed my days outside the office environment and am so thankful for the experience and confidence I am gaining along the way.

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