In 1994 Sir Muir Gray, who was then director of NHS Research and Development for Anglia and Oxford Regional Health Authority, set about to develop an evidence based medicine movement in the UK. Using a startup grant from the R&D scheme he invited David Sackett, a physician, teacher and pioneer of modern day evidence based medicine, to Oxford to found the first of several centres around the country. David Sackett was appointed by the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, as a Professor of Clinical Epidemiology. He also practiced as an Honorary NHS Consultant in General Medicine.
By 1995 the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine was established in Oxford. The initial “Centre” consisted of two offices run out of the John Radcliffe Hospital and consisted of a team of four people: Professor David L Sackett (Director of the Centre), Mr Douglas Badenoch (Programme Manager for Education and Communication), Mrs Olive Goddard (Centre Co-ordinator and Editorial Assistant) and Miss Caroline Hinton (Secretary to the Centre). The broad aim was to promote evidence-based health care and provide support and resources to anyone who wants to make use of them.
The Centre started building a network of tutors locally and across the world that shared the philosophy of CEBM. Many of the members of this network are world leaders in the speciality and include: Prof. Doug Altman, Dr Amanda Burls, Sir Iain Chalmers, Prof Michael Clarke, Sir Rory Collins, Prof Martin Dawes, Sir Tim Peto, Sir Richard Peto, Prof Jon Deeks, Prof Brian Haynes, Prof Rod Jackson, Prof Ann McPherson, Prof Sharon Strauss and Prof Pat Yudkin.
The Centre for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) grew into an internationally renowned unit of teaching and research excellence. David Sackett firmly believed that the provision of better clinical care to patients was dependent upon educating learners with the tools to understand and practice evidence based medicine.
In 2000 David Sackett returned to Canada and the CEBM was directed by Martin Dawes for a period of time. After Martin left there was a period of time when CEBM moved from the John Radcliffe Hospital to the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford. However there was no interim Director and the unit was kept going by Olive Goddard the Centre manager. In 2003 Prof David Mant, GP and Head of the Department of Primary Care, University of Oxford, brought the Centre over to be housed in his department and invited Professor Paul Glasziou, another world expert in EBM and GP, to became the Director of CEBM. The unit began to flourish and grow again, with opportunities for teaching undergraduates, graduates and standalone workshops as well as excellent research activities. Paul served in his post until 2010 when he returned to Bond University, Australia, as Director of the Centre for Research in Evidence-Based Practice (CREBP).
In 2010 the CEBM had a new director, Carl Heneghan, who was a practicing GP and mentee of David Sackett. Carl was a medical student when David Sackett came to Oxford and sat in his lectures taking in the philosophy and reasoning for using EBM in clinical practice. Carl also shared the same philosophy of promoting the teaching, learning, practice, and evaluation of Evidence-Based Medicine while also training researchers to perform randomised trials and systematic reviews. In 2011 Olive Goddard retired and Ms Ruth Davis took over as the Centre manager. In 2014, Dr Kamal Mahtani was appointed as the Deputy Director. The centre now has a team of 14 that delivers on teaching, research and supervision as well as a number of senior fellows who support the activities of the centre.
Prof Carl Heneghan remains the current Director and while the initial NHS R&D grant finished a long time ago, the Centre has managed to keep going, without any core funding, and remains one of the internationally recognised centres of excellence in EBM research and teaching.