Fourth year medical student takes top prize in ETS 2015 Essay Competition

Sarah Freeston received a cash prize of €1,500

Sarah Freeston accepts her prize, a cheque for €1,500, from Roberto Berardi, Chairman of ETS, while the judging panel looks on

A fourth year medical student at University College, London has scooped the prize in the 2015 European Tissue Symposium Essay Competition on the most hygienic way to dry your hands.

Sarah Freeston's winning essay was judged the best by the ETS Scientific Panel consisting of six eminent professors and microbiologists from across Europe. She received her cash prize of €1,500 at the Faculty Club in the University of Leuven in Belgium followed by a lunch with the Scientific Panel.

'Sarah did a wonderful job in emphasising the importance of proper hand washing and drying from the perspective of the bacteria,' explained Chairman of the Scientific Panel, Professor Marc Van Ranst. 'Her very well-written essay will be a useful tool in reaching out to a younger audience to convince them that hand drying using single-use towels is the preferred way to dry your hands as the final step in the handwashing process. This is also the mode of hand drying favoured by the World Health Organisation.'

Freeston saw the competition after ETS reached out to universities to encourage students to enter. She had seen hand-dryers and was keen to read the literature on their hygiene record, particularly as her studies meant that she spent time in a clinical environment and understood the importance of optimum cleanliness.

She said: 'The title of the essay interested me as it was quite different from the more academic and scientific competitions. The more light-hearted tone appealed and I decided to write the piece from a different perspective in order to engage children who would be put off by a more adult tone. I wrote the essay over the Christmas holidays, so I think I was also inspired by animated films.'

From that inspiration, Freeston created the germ character Gerry to explain the life of germs in the washroom and the importance of proper hand drying with single-use towels.

ETS has undertaken extensive research into the most hygienic way to dry hands. Studies with the Universities of Leeds and Westminster in the UK have been peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Hospital Infection.

A strong proponent of broadening awareness of these results among younger people, ETS launched its first Essay Competition last year, following four years of successful Cartoon Contests.

'We are very pleased with the freshness and quality of this winning essay,' said Roberto Berardi, Chairman of ETS. 'It is important to convey the facts to the younger generation and to demonstrate that the humble single-use paper towel is in fact state-of-the art in terms of hand hygiene and reducing air contamination in washrooms. The future is quite literally, in their (hopefully well washed and dried) hands.'

Read the essay here.