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EBHC DPhil student, Omotayo Adebanji, shares his experience having completed an MSc in EBHC and now furthering his education by completing a DPhil in EBHC.

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My MSc Dissertation

I enrolled on the MSc EBHC programme in 2017 and transitioned to the DPhil programme a few years later. My MSc Dissertation topic - ‘’Systematic review and meta-analysis of the diagnostic performance of dual point-of-care tests for diagnosing Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea infections: implications for policy and practice’’ - assessed the diagnostic performance of dual rapid Point-of-Care Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (rPOC-NAAT) in sexually active individuals testing for both Chlamydia (CT) and Gonorrhoea (NG) infections. Articles evaluating the diagnostic performance of dual rPOC-NAAT (index test) against Laboratory-NAAT (reference standard) were included in the review. The index test showed highly comparable diagnostic performance to the reference standard - for both infections. Some practice and research gaps were identified. For this blog, only research gaps that informed the DPhil project development were highlighted.

One of the limitations of the review was that the number of studies with data for asymptomatic, syndromic, and key populations were too small. In addition, the literature search only found 3 primary studies conducted in Low- and Mid- Income Countries (LMICs) and no study on real-world economic evaluation was identified. The review also shows that there are very few primary studies assessing the diagnostic performance of Laboratory-NAAT against standard practices in LMICs - microscopy, culture, Gram staining, and syndromic management – possibly due to cost implication amongst other factors. However, most studies in LMICs tend to use rPOCT-NAAT as ‘gold standard’.

Sequel to the high comparability estimates between index and reference standards in our review, we argued that a meta-analysis of the diagnostic performance for culture, microscopy, Gram-staining, and/or Syndromic management intervention using dual rPOC-NAAT as reference standard is reasonable and feasible. The diagnostic yield from this proposed meta-analysis would provide some of the dataset required for cost-effectiveness analysis comparing these standard practices to rPOC-NAAT. These gaps informed the design of my DPhil research protocol.

My DPhil thesis

The DPhil working title was therefore defined as – ‘’Diagnostic performance, stakeholders’ opinion and cost-effectiveness of nucleic acid amplification test platforms compared with standard care for dual diagnoses of Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea infections in low- and mid- income countries’’. This project will employ a variety of methodologies - Diagnostic Test Accuracy, Cost-effectiveness Evaluation, Qualitative Synthesis, and Systematic Review & Meta-Analysis. My time on the MSc EBHC course allowed me to develop functional, analytical, and self-led research competencies. These skillsets have made my ongoing DPhil experience significantly less challenging academically.

'Remarkable' supervision

My experience working with my core supervisors and the departmental methodologists has been remarkable since I joined the department. For example, during my final MSc research work, managing the complexities of the DTA methodology and my dataset required in-part the use of a combination of statistical packages. What I found particularly impressive was the act of vision to identify and proactively address this challenge – way before I could see it. The departmental supervisory team had the foresight and took the initiative to onboard a senior statistician to my supervisory team. The statistician provided access to the software required and always available as an indispensable resource during data analysis. 

I enjoy both professional and personal cordial relationship with my supervisors and programme leads - flexibility with meeting arrangements, honest criticism of every element of my research activities, and quick response to emails.

Why I chose to complete a DPhil in EBHC

I enrolled on this DPhil programme to further my education, for continuous professional development, capacity building, and networking. It will accord me the opportunity to undertake additional research training across varieties of disciplines and methodologies. I found active participation in seminars and informal meetings with staff and fellow graduate students very useful.

How THE MSc EBHC benefitted me during my dphil

My experience of completing the MSc EBHC first was significantly beneficial. It exposed me to a variety of research methodologies and aided the identification of area(s) of research interest, helped in developing subject knowledge and in constructing a robust DPhil project. My time on the programme also availed me the ample opportunity to understand the University’s system and standards. I met and developed good-working relationship with fellow graduate students with sound research skills and shared interest, which aided joint working.

Words of advice

Tayo_DPhilEBHC.jpgIf you are contemplating on enrolling for the DPhil EBHC programme, you may find one or more of these tips useful. I would encourage you to talk to people – MSc supervisors, relevant methodologist in the department, potential DPhil supervisors, and DPhil students. I would advise you to read beyond your subject of interest – familiarising with other topics centered around your methodology will deepen your methodological understanding. I find partnering with external stakeholders such as industry professionals and academic collaborators from different sectors or countries very beneficial.

It goes without saying that it may be better to focus on your strong points especially if you have other significant commitments such as full-time work. That said, I would advise you endeavour to learn new skills such as methodology, subject, or statistical skills. If possible, ensure your MSc research work identifies gaps you could explore further as a DPhil project.

What I find particularly challenging so far is sourcing for funding. Although I am yet to secure funding, I am aware that some DPhil student on the EBHC programme did manage to secure funding. I think the most important thing is for you to do the maths - financially - and keep asking around for funding.

My future aspirations

I currently work for the Civil Service within the Health Protection functions with focus on regional health system coordination, advice, and communicable diseases management. My future aspiration is to continue working on infectious diseases with Global Health description, health system research, and teaching.