Everest documentary scoops film award 

06/12/2013 00:00 
A documentary about a ground-breaking expedition to Mount Everest to discover how the human body responds to extreme environments has scooped a coveted media award.

‘Doctors on Everest’ which was screened on Al Jazeera won the Foreign Press Association’s Science Story of the Year.

The film – featured in Al Jazeera’s The Cure series – followed the pioneering research of the Xtreme Everest 2 expedition, which included researchers from UCL and UCLH supported by the NIHR University College London Hospitals BRC, the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, and UCLH Charity. The announcement was made at the Foreign Press Association Media Awards dinner at the Park Lane Hotel.

In the film, screened earlier this year, anaesthetist Dr Joff Lacey followed the researchers when they went to Everest to study how the body adapts to low levels of oxygen and how some people cope better with low levels of oxygen than others. Lack of oxygen reaching the body’s vital organs – also known as hypoxia – is a common occurrence for intensive care patients.

Professor Monty Mythen outside the Namche Bazaar laboratory on Everest

After he returned, the film shows Dr Lacey visiting the University College Hospital intensive care unit, accompanied by Professor Monty Mythen, Director of Research at UCLH and a consultant anaesthetist, to better understand the direct impact the research could have on patient care.

Despite intensive care being one of the most sophisticated areas of hospital care, there is still limited understanding of why some people survive and some die.

Carrying out research on people in intensive care units is not always an option so the team took healthy volunteers to Everest, a setting with very low levels of oxygen, where a series of tests were carried out with the aim of developing novel therapies to improve the survival rates of their patients.

Comparable to the critical conditions of intensive care, oxygen levels on Everest’s summit are a third of those at sea level - similar to those experienced by patients in intensive care. In the first expedition, the team even performed tests on themselves in the ‘Death Zone’ (at an altitude where there is barely enough oxygen to support life).

Professor Mythen said: "The Grain media team were brilliant to work with and Joff Lacey is clearly a rising star. Their repackaging of the complex science for a broad audience was superb. I am delighted they won but not surprised."

To watch this episode, along with other instalments of ‘The Cure’ series, visit the Al Jazeera English website.

For a full list of FPA Media Awards winners visit the FPA website.

Xtreme Everest is a not for profit organisation, led by doctors and scientists from UCL, University of Southampton and Duke University in the United States. www.xtreme-everest.co.uk

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