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18th July 2023

Exeter student Louise Downs wins Laskar Essay Contest

Current Exeter student Louise Downs (2021, DPhil Biomedical and Clinical Sciences) has won the Lasker Foundation’s annual essay contest. The Lasker Foundation seeks to better the field of medical research through recognising research excellence, advocacy, and education. The Foundation is best known for the Lasker Awards which, since 1945, have been awarded to individuals who have made a significant contribution to basic or clinical medical research or public service.

Each year, the Lasker Foundation holds a highly competitive Essay Contest for early career scientists and clinicians around the world with the aim of building skills in communicating important medical and scientific issues. This year’s essay topic centred around the unanticipated ethical issues that could arise during training. Louise Downs, who studies chronic Hepatitis B (CHB) treatment, wrote about her field work in Kenya. Her essay, entitled ‘Is a test better than no test when there is no treatment?’ addressed the challenges of testing people for HBV without the potential for treatment provision. She weighed the stigma associated with certain conditions against the utility of a diagnosis.

Louise Downs wrote about the award, ‘I was absolutely thrilled to win the Laskar Essay Contest, it was very unexpected. I saw the topic and was compelled to write a piece as I feel very passionate about the ethics of conducting research in lower income settings, and ensuring a sustainable plan is left in place once research projects have finished. My experiences described here have certainly been eye opening for me, and now working in Kenya, the reality of the difficulties faced regarding stigma and discrimination of certain diagnoses are very apparent.’

Exeter College warmly congratulates Louise on her exceptional achievement!

Louise Downs

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