By Orna Herr, Communications Officer (Education) at the British Science Association

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It’s the biggest public sector employer in the UK, an institution that frequently tops the lists of reasons to be proud to be British, and today (5 July) is its 76th birthday – it’s the NHS!

The NHS was founded in 1948, and today employs over 1.5 million people in all sorts of roles. Many young people aspire to work in a medical field, but applying to study medicine at university is a very competitive process – only around 25% of applicants are successful.

Pharmacy, nursing and other health-related courses can also prove difficult to get on, with high entry requirements.

So, standing out is essential! Prospective students need to show the admissions board that they’re committed to the medical path, and that they’re head and shoulders above the rest. A great way to do this is to earn a CREST Award for a project that explores a medical topic.

A CREST Award on a UCAS application form demonstrates a students’ genuine interest in and aptitude for medicine, and gives them a unique experience to talk about in an interview.

In our CREST resource library you’ll find lots of medicine-themed projects for students aged 11 up to 16+, which delve into all sorts of topics. We’ve explored a selection below, but you can find more activities in the ‘Heathy living & medicine’ tab in each level of the Awards. in the CREST resource library.

Explore now to find the full range

Gold Awards – for ages 16+

A balanced diet

From diabetes to Crohn’s disease, lots of people around the UK suffer from nutritional disorders. However, as the symptoms can be the sign of lots of different conditions, people don’t always realise at first that they have a nutritional disorder.

‘A balanced diet’ is a two-part project. Students will research nutritional disorders and produce a poster or leaflet about one, to inform the public how to look out for the signs, and diet modifications they could make.

They will then design a menu for a person with a nutritional disorder. Students will need to think about the amounts of nutrients from different food groups the person will need. Learning how to communicate effectively about common illnesses and discuss treatments is a key skill that will help students in any medical career.

Investigating vitamin supplements

Many people take vitamin and mineral supplements to make sure their body is getting everything it needs, but how quickly and effectively are these tablets absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach?

In ‘Investigating vitamin supplements’, students will design experiments - using Visking tubing to mimic the stomach - to study different types of supplements. Do our bodies absorb some faster than others? Why might this be and how can we use this information?

Silver Awards–  for ages 14+

How healthy is your spread?

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that health and diet are inextricably linked, but we don’t always know the ways in which particular foods are harmful to our bodies.

‘How healthy is your spread?’ has students investigate the fat and salt contents of various types of butter-substitute spread, to see which would be best to recommend to a patient with coronary heart disease.

They’ll need to research coronary heart disease, including symptoms like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and understand how eating too much food high in fat and salt can exacerbate these problems. Being able to discuss healthy food choices with patients is an essential skill in medicine!

Make and analyse pain relievers

Pain relievers like aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen are the most frequently bought over-the-counter medications in the UK. GPs will often advise them to help ease discomfort. But do we know what’s in these products, and how they work?

To earn a Silver Award for ‘Make and analyse pain relievers’, students will find out how to use chemical tests and chromatography to learn about the active ingredients of these medications.

They’ll compare different tablets and investigate their purity, as well as thinking about the different forms these medications come in. For those interested in pharmacy and pharmacology, studying over-the-counter pain relievers is a great place to start.

Oral rehydration therapies

Diarrhoea. It’s not a pleasant topic, but it’s something that can affect us all at one stage or another. In adults it’s usually relatively brief and harmless - if distressing - but for children under five, diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death around the world.

‘Oral rehydration therapies’ has students researching the causes and consequences of diarrhoea and its effect on infant mortality worldwide.

They’ll explore different oral rehydration therapies as a treatment for diarrhoea - designed to replace the essential water the salts the body has lost. It might be something we prefer not to dwell on, but while diarrhoea wreaks such devastation globally, it can’t be ignored.

Bronze Awards – for ages 11+  

Disease, development and diagnostics

A recent edition to the Bronze CREST collection is ‘Disease, development and diagnostics’, a resource pack about women’s reproductive health.

The pack includes six projects which cover topics such as period pain, HPV and cervical cancer, endometriosis and global pregnancy care. These are issues that can affect around half the world’s population, yet they are arguably not talked about enough.

It’s vital for all young people to be well-informed on topics that are highly likely to impact theirs or their loved one’s bodies and lives, and especially those thinking about a career in medicine.  

We interviewed teachers at Rugby High School who ran the projects with their Year 9 classes.

Read our blog to hear how it went and get some top tips

Students applying to study medicine, pharmacy, nursing, biomedical engineering and other medical-themed courses besides will be up against some of the most high-achieving students in the UK and from around the world. A CREST Award can help prove that they’re one of them!

Other blogs you might be interested in:

Help students make the most of summer by earning a CREST Award!

A Gold CREST Award case study: Finding the link between nutrition and mental health

How CREST Awards can boost UCAS applications and university admission interviews

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