Next Generation Ambassadors: Interview with Hannah Costello

Published: 12 August 2019

We interviewed Hannah Costello, one of our Next Generation Ambassadors and VisitScotland, Young Legend, who is on a mission to improve Scotland’s hearts. Find out more about Hannah below.

What is your field of research and what interested you to pursue it?

My interest in cardiovascular disease (CVD) began after my uncle suffered a fatal heart attack, giving me a personal understanding of the devastating impact on families of heart disease. It was a difficult time for me and for all my family. Speaking to friends made me realise most people know or have been affected by CVD in some way. These early unforgettable impressions have driven me to contribute to the latest advances in new treatments for preventing heart attacks. I applied for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) PhD programme in several universities and I was fortunate to be offered a place at the University of Edinburgh. I knew I wanted to do a PhD in Edinburgh as it is at the heart of changing global practice in cardiology by identifying markers to help diagnose a heart attack and predict a person’s future heart attack risk. Furthermore, it is home to the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Centre of Research Excellence. My PhD has allowed me to participate in cutting-edge research, not only in the cardiovascular field but also other areas vital to major issues facing society today.

How are you working to achieve your ambitions?

Research is powerful, but it can take years to deliver new treatments. Education can empower people now. Therefore, I established “The BHF Scotland School Outreach Programme”. The programme integrates into the school curriculum and will improve the health of the nation by instilling the importance of healthy choices. I also communicate the impact of research to enthuse school pupils about science careers, and include CPR training, as every minute without CPR following a heart attack reduces survival rates by 10%. My work has already benefited 10 schools in Edinburgh. Due to the success of the programme I have now trained 15 PhD students to broaden our reach to schools and youth groups around Scotland. PhD students are now connected with groups in Dundee, Aberdeen and St Andrew’s, and we are in position roll out to communities across Scotland.

We are working hard with the BHF to teach as many school pupils CPR as possible. The BHF has successfully campaigned to get all secondary schools in Scotland to teach CPR to their students. This programme is not only teaching secondary school pupils CPR but we are also teaching primary schools pupils CPR so hopefully in future there will be plans in place to get every primary school to teach CPR to their students.

Hannah Costello 1Money raised by Eden Scott for the BHF Outreach Programme

For this work I was nominated for a BHF heart hero award that I was lucky enough to win. This publicity raised awareness of the programme and attracted companies in the Edinburgh area to raise money for the programme. Eden Scott decided to donate £1 for every CV submitted to them in January, raising an incredible £1000 for the BHF. Furthermore, I was named Young Legend of Scotland in Education for this work and I have been working closely with VisitScotland over the last year to promote Scotland as a place where your ideas can become legend.

Hannah Costello 2BHF Heart Hero award for my work with the BHF Outreach Programme

My passion to contribute to the latest advances in heart attack prevention is ongoing through my PhD research and training, but my educational programme is having tangible, immediate benefits on heart health and safety now and is contributing to making Scotland a Nation of Lifesavers.

How can working with Convention Edinburgh help achieve your goals?

Convention Edinburgh has been very supportive of me and my goals over the last year. My academic career is just beginning and having a support network like Edinburgh Ambassadors is a great programme to be a part of. Furthermore, being part of this programme is allowing me to meet academics all over the city. I am very grateful for the initiative for the Next Generation of Ambassadors and looking forward to working with Convention Edinburgh in the coming years.

Are there any conferences you would like to see come to Edinburgh in the near future?

I would love to see The Physiological Society host a conference in Edinburgh and also The Society of Endocrinology. In the past few years, these two societies have hosted conferences in Glasgow and Aberdeen so it would be great for them to come to Edinburgh.

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