Meet the finalists of the 2021 Being Edinburgh award and find out who won.
The winner: Elisabeth FELDSTEIN
Read the announcement of Elisabeth's award here:
Throughout her five years as a student at the University of Edinburgh, Elisabeth Feldstein was known as proactive. She engaged with student networks and societies and in her third year formed the Edinburgh University Women in STEM group to inspire, motivate, and connect women studying STEM subjects who often feel outnumbered by their male counterparts. The society is still going strong today.
Elisabeth also secured support and funding from Edinburgh Innovations and co-founded her own start up business, Augment Bionics during her studies. This innovative business produces cost-effective 3D printed prosthetic limbs making them much more accessible to a wide range of people who otherwise could not afford them.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the company pivoted their capacity to produce PPE for the NHS. Elisabeth’s team collectively re-purposed the business in order to provide face shields to the NHS as well as abroad to countries in need. She also harnessed the support of the wider University of Edinburgh community of staff, students and alumni and was able to raise over £100,000 in charitable donations and 120,000 face shields, all for the NHS.
In late 2020, Elisabeth has decided to give back to both the University of Edinburgh and its students by running online careers and networking workshops organised by the School of Chemistry, displaying an engaged and passionate desire to use her own enthusiasm to empower others.
She also founded the Edinburgh University Philadelphia Alumni Club, and In 2021 she was elected to the University's General Council Business Committee, the body that is the graduate voice in the running of the University of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh education: Chemistry 2019
Current position: Global Graduate Program (US) – Commercial Stream, Johnson Matthey.
Luis Alberto CAMPOS
Dr Luis Campos has had a distinguished career as a cardiologist in Houston, Texas, and has consistently combined this with a dedication to humanitarian work.
In 1981 he became aware of a large community of Cambodian refugees who were living in poverty in Houston. Appalled by their levels of malnutrition, he opened a free medical clinic for them and persuaded other doctors to help. They discovered parasites that the US government’s Centre for Diseases Control had never heard about, which led to the publications in medical journals. Luis's church initiated a nutrition program and obstetrical care for the refugee ladies who had lost most male children. This lasted for three years. Luis was urged by local leaders to continue his work among other destitute groups, which led him to organise and participate in medical missions to Mexico from 1983 until 1990.
In 2007 Luis received a special award from the Peruvian Foreign Ministry for having distinguished himself in promoting the welfare of Peruvian communities abroad and in furthering positive international relations. In 2009 and 2012 the Hospital Corporation of America, the Memorial Hermann Medical Systems and the Peruvian American Medical Society respectively gave him the Humanitarian Physician of the Year award.
Also, in 2007, he was part of a delegation invited by the First Lady of the Peruvian Congress to assess the damage from a severe earthquake on the southern coast of Peru. A medical Centre was constructed, (PAMS Policlinico Chincha) which is still in operation and hosts many humanitarian International Medical Missions every year.
A major part of Luis’s most recent work began in 2003 when he founded an NGO, Operacion San Andres (OSA) to aid a severely deprived district in Collique, Comas, district north of Lima. This is a sprawling community on a barren desert hillside. There volunteer teams began to provide free medical care on twice-yearly visits. Free lunches are provided for hundreds of malnourished children, and the local school receives otherwise unaffordable teaching materials, while also being assisted in its after-school enrichment and sporting activities. A team of well-qualified Peruvians works with OSA. Luis is insistent that the work be led by locals, and not by well-heeled Americans.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the focus has shifted to supporting the education of hundreds of children who can’t access the benefit of online learning. Also, over 30 community soup-kitchens are receiving substantial food aid for more than 2,000 people, funded by supporters in the USA, Scotland and Peru.
In recognition of the work of OSA, Luis was awarded a Special Diploma by the Peruvian Government for "Valuable Participation in National Education”, an accolade that sums up the dedicated passion and consideration that he gives to both humanitarian work and his own communities.
Edinburgh education: Medicine 1969.
Current position: Retired Cardiologist and Founder of Operacion San Andres.
Akhil Ennamsetty had just returned to India from Edinburgh when he took a voluntary test for Covid-19 upon his arrival. It was early 2020 and the magnitude of the impending pandemic was only just beginning to be realised.
His test was positive, making him one of the first people in India to be diagnosed with Covid-19. Amid widespread rumours in India that infected people wouldn’t survive, he went ahead to get admitted to the isolation facility at a hospital in Hyderabad, without even meeting his friends and family.
Akhil recovered, but his experience made him want to do something more to aid the fight against the virus in India. He decided to volunteer to be the first donor for convalescent plasma therapy in his region, allowing researchers there to investigate the possible mechanism of action by which this passive antibody therapy would mediate protection in viral neutralisation. Akhil’s actions were all the more significant since many Covid-19 survivors had refused to do the same, influenced by misinformed views about plasma donation and reinfection. To encourage more survivors to come forward, he went on to re-donate within a month. There were four successful recoveries using the plasma donated by Akhil.
Akhil then went on to create a plasma task force that involved engaging with local government and setting up a web portal to connect patients and donors in various parts of India. Within the first month the portal was able to successfully coordinate about 250 convalescent plasma donations in the Delhi metropolitan area with at least 100 requests per week. He created a social movement to eliminate the booming black market in plasma donations, forcing the local government to set up a state-run plasma bank which provided an easy access for members of the public to get the benefits of the therapy. He was also commended by the Governor of the State and invited to her official residence.
Akhil, along with some friends, has also set up an online forum to help Indian students in the UK with the mental health challenges of being isolated in a foreign country during lockdown. He lobbied with the help of local MPs, the National Union of Students, and various university student unions to provide possible financial aid to the Indian students stuck in the UK with no source of income.
Furthermore, while studying for his postgraduate degree at the Edinburgh Law School, Akhil was selected for the 2020 cohort of the Clinton Global Initiative University, a flagship programme of the Clinton Foundation that recognises the world’s future leaders and activists. His project ‘Centre for Rights Activism’ aims to provide quality legal aid to the victims of human rights abuse and the indigenous tribes of the Northern Telangana region in India.
Edinburgh education: LLM Human Rights 2020.
Current position: Clinton Global Initiative University Fellow.
In 2018, Eilidh Gibson was preparing to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but the canoe slalom athlete suffered a shoulder injury that shattered her chances of appearing at the games. Eilidh was understandably devastated, but rather than let the energy and drive she had been building up go to waste, she decided to channel her passion for her sport into developing an initiative to inspire others.
Eilidh established Slalom Inspires, a non-profit organisation run by volunteers that aims to inspire and empower girls into the sport of canoe slalom through creating opportunities for them that they may not otherwise have. This ranges from running events that celebrate and inspire the girls of her sport to offering coaching and volunteering opportunities such as helping at the 2019 World Cup in London. Slalom Inspires has the ultimate aim of building the confidence and talent of the girls, whatever their aspiration or goals. Eilidh has creatively continued to provide activities throughout the lockdowns too, and also developed a coaching initiative called Project FLOW (Female Leaders On Water) that is supporting 22 aspiring female coaches to become the best versions of themselves.
In 2019, Eilidh won the Social Impact Award at the UK Sport PLX Conference in Manchester for her Slalom Inspires programme. The awards recognise those individuals, teams and sports who have made a significant contribution to the high-performance community, are achieving great things and having a special and positive impact.
In addition, in 2017 Eilidh was a member of the women's C1 Team, winning gold at the World, European and U23 World Championships and securing her best individual result when she finished fourth at Senior World Championships in Pau. She has also won an individual C1 silver World Cup medal at Lee Valley in 2014.
Eilidh is a two-time Senior Scottish Champion and was inducted into the University of Edinburgh Sporting Hall of Fame in 2018.
Edinburgh education: Biomedical Sciences (Physiology 2018).
Current position: Canoe Slalom Athlete and Founder of Slalom Inspires.