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My SSIP experience

Alvina Chan's SSIP experience

Wishing to contribute to positive transformations in healthcare, particularly for marginalised communities, final year Medicine student Alvina Chan undertook research into the differences in cancer screening attendance between transgender and gender-diverse individuals and cisgender counterparts.

The research started in the Scholarship and Special Interest Programme (SSIP) and later through the INSPIRE programme.

Read on for an interview with Alvina, revealing how this experience has not only shaped academic aspirations but also the potential for making a difference in clinical academia and healthcare advocacy.

Alvina Chan

What research did you do in your SSIP?

The research project I undertook is titled “Cancer screening attendance rates in transgender and gender-diverse patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis”.

This systematic review investigates health disparities experienced by transgender and gender-diverse (TGD) people compared to cisgender (CG) people in utilising cancer screening services.

The objective was to synthesise quantitative data on attendance rates in both groups, exploring how this changes based on types of cancer screened.

Our results suggested that TGD individuals were less likely to attend cancer screening, with disparities greatest in cervical and breast cancer screening, then prostate, and colorectal.

This research experience began as a project for the Scholarship and Special Interest Programme (SSIP) and was furthered through the INSPIRE programme. I undertook this project under the supervision of Dr Barbara Guinn who is a member of Hull York Medical School’s Centre for Biomedicine.

Why were you interested in this area of research?

I proposed this systematic review because I was aware of the inequalities experienced by TGD people in many aspects of healthcare; I wanted to help contribute to positive change through research.

I started by addressing cancer screening, as this is a widely practiced public health intervention that can have implications on morbidity and mortality.

It is my wish that publishing this paper can highlight disparities affecting TGD people so improvements can be made, both structurally and individually, by healthcare professionals and systems.

This experience has shown me how empowering it can be to partake in research. Often, change does not come easily, and the wider impact of research is difficult to predict; despite this, undertaking this project gave me hope that my knowledge and skills can be utilised to help underserved populations.

What role did you play within the research team or project?

I was a joint first author with Charlotte Jamieson, a fellow final year medical student. I initiated this systematic review, originally proposing the idea as my project for SSIP and writing the protocol. I helped plan and shape the vision for the research; furthermore, I contributed to the literature search, article review, data interpretation, and also writing and editing the manuscript.

This work has been submitted to BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine and is undergoing review for publication. We have also presented this as a poster at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ Annual Academic Meeting 2023.

Has this experience helped shape your career aspirations or have an impact on your academic journey?

This systematic review was the first research project I led – this experience has furthered my interest in clinical academia and inspired me to make change through research.

This has also provided more insight into what pursuing an academic career may involve. For instance, I had previously contributed to other projects but did not have opportunities to see them from start to end as I was not a lead researcher. I have found it valuable to experience the processes required in aspects like project planning and manuscript submission because I believe this will help me in future academic pursuits.

Moreover, I believe that a solid understanding of research and how it is conducted will benefit my clinical practice in whichever field I choose, as it helps me effectively apply evidence-based medicine.

This research experience was what initially led me to consider the Specialised Foundation Programme (SFP) and has since been immensely beneficial for my application. Currently, I am awaiting my results from my recent interview for the SFP.

I also hope that this project will be advantageous in my future applications to core training and specialty posts.

Additionally, it is from this experience and subsequent opportunities that I have begun to consider jobs in clinical academia, such as clinical research fellow posts that enable the pursuit of an MD.