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Epidemiologist, health behaviour scientist and post-doctoral researcher Min Gao shares with us the benefits she gained by taking the Teaching Evidence-Based Practice module as a short course.

multiple photos on a light blue background featuring diverse students and teachers in teaching and social situations, with many of them showing Min Gao, a young woman with long black hair and light skin.

Tell me about yourself

I’m Min Gao, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford. I am interested in understanding whether and how metabolic disorders are associated with depression through cohort data, omics data, and meta-analyses. To change such associations, I am also passionate about translating my observational research evidence into health behaviour interventions for high-risk individuals. Currently, I am leading epidemiological research to investigate whether and how adiposity is associated with mental illness and whether a weight management programme could provide clinical psychological benefits. To explore new treatments for depression, I am leading a clinical trial to evaluate the therapeutic effects of a ketogenic diet in patients with depression.

Teaching is an important part of my career. I have tutored for Big Data Epidemiology practice sessions and the Practice of Evidence-Based Health Care module. I have used various quantitative methods in teaching and supervision for DPhil students.

Where did you study and work previously?

I started my position at Oxford in September 2021. Before, I graduated from Peking University in July 2021. I have a strong educational background with a PhD in Social Medicine and Health Service Management, an MD in Social Medicine and Public Health, and a BA in Social Work.

What were your experiences in your previous studies?

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Over the past decade, I have maintained a focus on health determinants (i.e. health behaviours and obesity) with metabolic diseases and depression. In my research, I have worked closely with PPI groups to provide meaningful research. In my PhD program, I developed a tailored approach to doctor-patient communication for individuals with diabetes, considering their unique stages and intentions regarding health behaviours. Implemented in Beijing community health centres, this initiative received positive comments from both patients and the academic community, earning the prestigious first prize from the Chinese Centre for Health Education in 2020. My master's programme was to work with China CDC on smoke-free legislation and its evaluation in China.

Why did you choose the Teaching Evidence-Based Practice module?

As a committed researcher, I am passionate about teaching and supporting students’ drive for research. My aspiration for teaching at Oxford is to further develop my teaching repertoire by learning diverse teaching techniques in the context of UK education, which can support me to experiment with innovative teaching methods that build more engaging and effective learning environments. My enthusiasm extends to guiding and supporting students in their academic growth. I plan to take on some lectures in the department; this course will equip me for teaching.

This opportunity greatly aligns with my personal growth and career aspirations. I'm committed to enhancing my communication and presentation skills through student interactions while developing leadership abilities through teaching to pave the way for future career growth.

What has your experience of the module been?

My experience with this module has been incredibly insightful and enriching. The sessions led by David Nunan, Annette Plüddemann, Adrian Stokes, Edmund Jack, Rafael Perera, Nia Roberts, Sarah Pannell, Ashok Handa, and Helena Nunan have provided a comprehensive overview of various aspects of teaching evidence-based practice (EBP). From learning about diagnostics and systematic reviews to understanding the challenges of applying evidenced-based teaching and teaching Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) in practice, each session has been thought-provoking and engaging. The small group work sessions have been particularly valuable, allowing us to collaborate with peers, set agendas, develop teaching demonstrations, and explore concepts such as searching methods, statistics for EBP, lesson planning, and shared decision-making. Additionally, the opportunity to participate in ad hoc discussions and explore the use of online platforms for teaching EBP has broadened my perspective on effective teaching strategies.

What did you enjoy and what surprised you?

The first step to being a good teacher is understanding what it means to be an effective educator. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to practice teaching evidence-based practice and discovering innovative approaches to enhance learning experiences. The sessions on using online platforms to teach EBP were particularly enlightening, as they unveiled a multitude of creative tools and resources that can effectively engage students in the learning process. Learning from David about effective use of teaching strategies and online platforms for teaching EBP, understanding diagnostic strategies and tests from Annette, using games for teaching statistics with Rafael, and gaining practical skills in teaching EBP from Edmund, along with insights into systematic reviews from Nia and experiential challenges in shared decision-making from Adrian, Sarah, Helena, and Ashok, added more depth to the learning journey.

How will the module contribute to your current study and work, and what was the main benefit to you of taking the course?

This module has been very useful in advancing my understanding and teaching Big Data Epidemiology and Practice of Evidence-Based Health Care. Specifically, the insights gained from learning about diagnostic strategies, statistical games, and systematic reviews will directly inform my approach to analysing large datasets and conducting epidemiological research. Moreover, understanding the experiential challenges and values in shared decision-making will enhance my ability to translate research findings into clinical practice effectively. By integrating these learnings into my current study and work, I anticipate being better equipped to leverage big data for epidemiological insights and to promote evidence-based practices in healthcare settings, ultimately contributing to improved patient outcomes and population health.

What was your experience of academic support?   

The faculty and support staff were readily available to answer questions, provide guidance, and offer assistance whenever needed. Whether it was clarifying course materials, addressing technical issues, or offering additional resources, I found the academic support to be responsive and helpful. Their expertise and willingness to assist greatly contributed to my learning experience in teaching EBP.

What would your advice be to students considering studying your module/short course?

For students considering studying this module, my advice would be to recognise that it's not only important to understand the subject matter but also crucial to employ effective strategies and methods to communicate and convey that knowledge to others. Take advantage of the diverse range of topics covered and the expertise of the instructors. Be proactive in seeking clarification when needed and participate actively in discussions and group activities.

Do you have any specific tips or recommendations when considering or taking the course?

Complete the application form for this course and bring yourself if there is an available spot!


Find out more about the Teaching Evidence-Based Practice course here.