Rafsan 4

The 2023 Scar Free Foundation Electives

Since 2004 The Scar Free Foundation has run student electives in association with our Principal Member Organisations; the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS), the British Burn Association (BBA), the Craniofacial Society of Britain and Ireland (CFSGB&I) and the British Society for Surgery of the Hand (BSSH).

The aim of the electives is to provide students with their first experience of undertaking a research project under the supervision of a senior clinician/researcher.

This year we were delighted to award electives to the following students:

Isaac Jarrett-Barnham, from the University of Oxford, received a BSSH/Scar Free Foundation Elective to undertake the project, Exploring the relationship between the occupational and genetic risk factors predisposing to Dupuytren’s Contracture. His project was supervised by Professor Dominic Furniss, Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, University of Oxford.

Dupuytren’s Contracture is a sometimes-painful hand condition which affects the connective tissue between the palm and fingers. The condition causes finger contractures which interfere with hand function and can limit daily activities. The aim of Isaac’s project was to improve the understanding of the interaction between the occupational and genetic factors leading to disease development.

Issac plans to apply the methodology established during his elective to explore the development of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during his 2023-25 academic foundation programme at Oxford.

“I’m extremely grateful to Scar Free for offering me an extremely educational insight into clinical research. My elective both highlighted the administrative and logistical challenges of undertaking research within a new institution and provided an excellent opportunity to develop my coding and research skills, forge connections with other investigators and broaden my understanding of plastic surgery research. The Scar Free Foundation and BSSH has set me up excellently to excel during my Academic Foundation Programme next year.”

Rafsan Chowdhury, from the University of Aberdeen, received a BAPRAS/Scar Free Foundation Elective to undertake the project, Developing an Evidence Based and Anxiety Reducing Protocol for Keloid Management in the Paediatric Population. Rafsan’s project was supervised by Mr Simon Filson at Evelina Children’s Hospital, London.

The focus of Rafsan’s elective was on keloid scarring. A keloid is a type of raised scar that forms during the healing process of a wound or injury. Unlike other types of scars, which gradually fade over time, keloid scars extend beyond the boundaries of the original wound and can become larger, thicker, and more prominent. They can be itchy, painful and aesthetically bothersome. The aim of Rafsan’s elective was to understand the impact of pathological scarring on the level of anxiety surrounding treatment and the quality of life of patients. He has also benefited from clinical exposure provided by his supervisors which will stand in in good stead for his academic plastic surgery themed foundation programme next year.

“My elective at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, as well as at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals has been an incredibly rewarding experience, providing a diverse range of exposure to multiple subspeciality areas within Plastic Surgery. I am very fortunate to have integrated so well within the team, allowing me to develop my practical surgical skills and academic research skills. The ability to scrub and assist in a range of paediatric, free flap and hand surgery enabled for a thorough and enriching experience and highlighted the impact of plastic and reconstructive surgery across all patients. The research component of this elective allowed for a deeper appreciation of the principles underpinning scar management and work towards enhanced service provision. I am so grateful to the Scar Free Foundation and BAPRAS for supporting me throughout this elective period, and I am very excited to continue gaining more experience within this amazing field.”

Alexander Plonkowski, from the University of Newcastle, received a CFSGB&I/Scar Free Foundation Elective to undertake the project, Eye-tracking as a tool for the assessment of appearance outcomes following cleft lip surgery. Mr Plonkowski undertook his project at the Northern and Yorkshire Cleft Service, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Alexander’s elective was an expansion of the work he undertook for his Master of Research and aimed to investigate eye-tracking technology as a method of appearance outcome assessment following cleft surgery. Currently, there is no reliable tool to assess appearance outcomes following cleft lip surgery and therefore determining the optimum surgical technique and protocol is unclear. Alexander’s project looked at whether there is a difference in gaze patterns between lay people, cleft team members and cleft surgeons when looking at facial images of individuals with a cleft lip pre- and post-operatively.

"Thanks to the Scar Free Foundation & CFSGB&I elective, I have had the opportunity to expand my research. It has allowed both me and the greater team to expand our project to a greater scope than we had previously planned! The elective has also allowed the planning of multiple future projects. I hope the work done during the elective will yield novel and valuable insights into appearance outcomes following cleft lip repair and lay foundations to advance care for patients."

We are very grateful to our Principal Member Organisations who part-fund the electives, to the supervisors who oversee these awards and to members of the Foundation’s Research Council who review the elective applications and the final reports. We hope to offer another round of electives in early 2024 and look forward to hearing more about our talented 2023 cohort as they develop their research and clinical skills.

*Photos from Rafsan Chowdhury