Professor Angela Shore, Interim Dean of the University of Exeter Medical School, presents the Quintiles Women in Science Prize to Medical student Praveena Deekonda.

Medical student scoops Women in Science prize

A medical student who has embraced a wide range of roles is celebrating winning the University of Exeter Medical School’s Quintiles Women in Science Award ahead of International Women’s Day.

Praveena Deekonda, 22, was presented with the award yesterday, in a week where the University celebrates the outstanding achievements of its academics, students, staff and supporters.

Praveena, who is in the third year of her Medicine programme, has taken advantage of a wide range of opportunities, on top of her busy academic schedule.

Praveena, who moved from Toronto, Canada, to take up her place at Exeter, said she was “shocked and honoured” to win the award. “It’s great to get such positive reinforcement,” she said. “It makes me feel that I’m on the right track to an academic career, and I hope it can inspire others too.”

Alongside her student workload, Praveena is a lead member of a number of organisations which mean she is developing both her skills and her interests in relation to her academic career.

During her time at Exeter, Praveena has undertaken a 12-month studentship with the Orthopaedic Spinal Team at Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, gaining research experience that has strengthened her ambition to become a clinician-scientist, both practicing medicine and engaging in research. She is also the South West lead for STARsurg, the first medical student-led research collaborative in the UK and was recently selected to join the organisation’s national steering group. Through multi-centre national cohort studies, STARSurg provides highly sought-after audit experience to medical students through surgical audits on important topics such as post-surgical acute kidney injury. She is also currently serving her 3rd term as an elected representative of the British Medical Association.

In addition to clinical research, Praveena has also participated in basic science research and took up an INSPIRE studentship, which funds students to undertake research placements. Praveena worked in a molecular immunology laboratory at the University, gaining hands-on research experience, and is now a senior editor for the INSPIRE student journal.

Praveena said: “I do take on a lot, and I work hard to be organised and to prioritise. Each day, I put my degree first and don’t do anything extra until I’ve fulfilled my curriculum learning objectives for the day. The programme teaches us to be self-directed learners, and that’s given me a really strong foothold to be able to take on all this activity. I really enjoy it, and I hope it’ll be a great foundation for my career.”

Fellow student Joseph Yates, who nominated Praveena, said she was a “perfect role model” for women looking to pursue a career in science, and said he was “delighted” at her win. "Praveena’s commitment to medicine has been demonstrated through her extracurricular involvement in medical research, education and leadership activities. She is confident, caring and possesses the curiosity necessary to achieve her ambition of becoming a clinician-scientist. There is a need to bridge the gap between science and medicine and to translate more research into clinical practice. Becoming a clinician-scientist will enable Praveena to bring a unique perspective to research that is founded on personal experience from patient care."

Professor Angela Shore, Interim Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “Congratulations to Praveena for this well-deserved award. She is highly motivated and takes up every opportunity to improve her knowledge and skill set to progress her career. I have no doubt that she will make an excellent clinician-researcher. We’re presenting this award to coincide with International Women’s Day. For me, that’s all about breaking down barriers and inspiring people to aim high. Praveena’s proactive approach is an example to all. I’d like to thank Quintiles for their generous contribution, which helps us recognise some of our most outstanding students and to motivate the next generation of excellence.”

Lindy Jones, Chairman, European, Middle East and Africa Board, Quintiles, said: “Developing the next generation of scientists and clinicians is crucial for the future of science and medicine in the UK. Quintiles is delighted to support and recognise students like Praveena, who are clearly excelling at what they do.

“Our ability to help our biopharma customers is dependent on our award-winning people. We currently employ approximately nine hundred medical doctors and nine hundred PhDs and we need to continue to attract the brightest and the best as we strive to transform clinical research.”

The Medical School has already presented the Quintiles Academic Achievement Award to Thalia Groom and the Quintiles Prize for Best Professional Training Year on the Medical Sciences programme to Samuel Wallis. Read more about previous prize winners here.

The University will also mark International Women’s Day week with a talk from Honorary Graduate Mandy McBain, Client Account Manager for Stonewall, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Equality Charity. Through her work with the charity and alongside her involvement with the Armed Services and UK Security Services, Mandy has become a passionate advocate for equality, diversity and inclusion. She was awarded an MBE in the 2012 New Year Honours list for her contributions to the inclusivity agenda for the Naval Service and developed the first Naval Service Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Forum which received formal recognition in the Service and helped to develop other minority networks which remain today. Her talk will take place on Wednesday March 9 at Streatham Court. Find out more or book a place here.

The University will also celebrate the achievements of its outstanding students, staff, academics and supporters on this website.

Date: 8 March 2016

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