Covid-19 kids research updates - the student team

In April 2020 a team of MD3 and MD4 students under the guidance of clinicians from the Department of Paediatrics launched the COVID-19 Kids Research Evidence Update.

MD students
Clockwise from top left: Renee Cocks, Ben Watson, Alastair Weng,  Dan Lindholm, Ha My Ngoc Nguyen, Samar Hikmat, Batsho Mandlebe.

The aim was to provide a useful resource for clinicians and scientists to keep abreast of the large amount of research emerging around COVID-19, with a focus on paediatrics. The weekly update results from the collaborative contributions of dozens of people from right across the Melbourne Children’s campus led by Professor Fiona Russell, Dr Wonie Uahwatanasakul and Ms Eleanor Neal. There have now been 12 weekly updates published that summarise specific COVID-19 literature from throughout the world covering the previous week.

MD students
Clockwise from top left: Sarah Marnie Jackson, Daniel Lamanna, Rose Kizhakekara, Kieren Patrick Fahey, Charissa Chan, Julian Tungliang Loo Yong Kee.

The enthusiastic student team have made an invaluable contribution assisting with reviewing and appraisal of the vast amounts of literature each week.  Here are some of their thoughts on why they wanted to volunteer to work on the updates and what the experience means to them.

Follow the Update here.

Daniel Lamanna (MD3 leads the student group): In a fascinating way it appears that people grow closer to one another when chaos presents itself - physiology would argue that we’re wired to either fight or take flight in times of extreme stress or need. It’s apparent to me that we have chosen as a community to fight together, and for this I personally am quite proud of my colleagues and of the medical leadership for taking on this responsibility. I understand that us medical students are not contributing hands-on-deck at this point (as many of us would love to do), but we do get to share in the remedy of this situation even in a small capacity and that gives us a sense of satisfaction and a small taste of accomplishment.

Evelyn Andrews: In the early stages of the evolving pandemic there were many unknowns and misinformation was rife. My participation in this initiative was motivated by a desire to contribute to the dissemination of accurate information within the community, as well as to develop my own understanding of COVID-19 and medical research. I have enjoyed the sense of collaboration between staff and students which has been required to get this initiative off the ground. During a period of isolation, it has been nice to feel like I am part of something bigger than just my own studies and research.

Nicholas Baxter: I was motivated to do this mainly to help summarise the currently available research about antiviral compounds which are being investigated against the coronavirus. Having previously worked on antimicrobial compounds in wet chemistry labs, taking it forward with more of a clinical focus to the research has been great. It's been wonderful to keep abreast of the latest research, and have insightful comments to share with peers. The things I enjoy most about this initiative is keeping abreast of cutting edge research addressing the current global pandemic, and also having the opportunity for experts to review my work.

COCKS, Renee: I was motivated to take part in the initiative because it's a great way for students no longer in placement to assist health practitioners during the pandemic, while providing experience analysing new and evolving research. I enjoy keeping up to date with the latest COVID19 research while knowing I'm helping to make it accessible to others. I also enjoy being part of a like-minded committee, where summarising papers is straight-forward due to clear instruction and direction from the team.

Samar Hikmat: COVID-19!!; A pandemic that suddenly invaded our world without giving us a chance to think or act. What is it? Why is it spreading quickly? How can we control it? Hundreds of other questions swiftly jumped to everybody's mind. Everyday thousands of literature papers are published. Yet, given their busy schedules, healthcare providers and researchers have no time to review them all. I was looking for a chance to play an active role and help in answering questions about this pandemic; the “COVID-19 Kids Evidence Update” initiative offered me exactly what I was looking for and much more. Ever since starting on this project, I felt a tremendous satisfaction knowing that I am contributing to the medical field and assisting healthcare workers, researchers, and the community in such challenging times. Moreover, it allowed me to stay updated about the latest advances in the fight against COVID-19. I am happy and proud to be part of a passionate team of medical students, healthcare workers, and researchers working towards this great cause.

Rose Kizhakekara: Some of my peers were already involved in this and they shared one of the publications with me. When I saw it, I thought to myself: 'This looks like a great way that I can contribute to the COVID-19 response, right from my home. I have enjoyed learning about the latest research from around the world. Also, collaborating and being a part of something bigger than myself.

Bowen Lim: Reading COVID-19 papers was something that I already did in my free time .  Contributing to this project was a meaningful way to share what I thought was interesting with others. I enjoy seeing how research has progressed throughout this pandemic. I also like that we get an idea of which papers experts feel are important in their respective field. I am happy that all people over the world find our summaries useful.

Dan Lindholm: I joined the COVID-19 Kids Research Update team because I want to use whatever skills I have in the fight against COVID. I've particularly enjoyed applying my knowledge and experience in other fields to burgeoning aspects of COVID-19 research.

Jim Owens: I was motivated to join the COVID-19 Kids research team by the desire to contribute something positive to the public health effort, but which made best use of my skill set. Given my research background and recent experience with the Master of Public Health, this role really fit the bill! The experience has been rewarding and I have appreciated the chance to stay on top of the research and insights from the scientific community as they happen. I feel that, by focussing on the literature I have more clarity in my understanding of the crisis, and hope that some of this clarity is conveyed to the people who read our summaries. Surprisingly, the most enjoyable aspect has been the act of committing myself to reading and understanding a paper for an hour, knowing that it's my job to communicate its essence. The process is almost meditative, and the summaries flow relatively easily off the pen.

Jenny Pham: Being someone who really enjoys being involved in the community in which I work, I thought that the COVID-19 Kids Research Evidence Update was a great way to stay connected and collaborate with my fellow peers and clinicians. For me, this initiative was also a good opportunity to be further involved in research and public health and actively contribute to these areas.

The best thing about this initiative is the collaboration between so many different people. There are not many opportunities for students to work alongside heads of departments, or have their work reviewed by clinicians on a weekly basis. Additionally, the flat hierarchy at RCH and in this initiative has meant that student input is considered and our ideas are implemented. This has really made me feel valued and passionate about what we're doing.

Ben Watson: I wanted to contribute in some way to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. I'm interested in research and improving my research skills and this gives me a structured way to do so. I’m interested in paediatrics and this gives me a way to stay in touch with paediatric medicine and the RCH. The best parts of being involved are collaborating with other students, being kept up to date on the current research, having work reviewed by experts in specific fields and being part of a respected research collaborative.

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