Alumnus perspective: Developing research skills and a questioning mindset
27 October 2022
EBHC programmes Students
In this blog, MSc in EBHC alumnus, Drew Dagens, reflects on his experience of the programme and his research project under the supervision of Course Director, Annette Plüddemann, having recently published his dissertation in the journal, 'Clinical Microbiology and Infection'.
Drew Dagens is an infectious disease doctor and recent graduate of the MSc in Evidence-Based Healthcare. Here, he reflects upon his experience of the course and his dissertation
I applied for the MSc looking for an intellectual challenge and an opportunity to reflect upon how we make evidence-based decisions in medicine.
The programme equips you to think critically about healthcare and the evidence that underpins clinical practice and teaches ‘hard skills’ like trial design, research synthesis and statistics but, equally importantly, encourages a questioning mindset about ‘how we know what we know.’ It's a very flexible course, taught my the fantastic team at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine and I had no problem balancing study with my busy job at the hospital. I enjoyed participating in the active community at Harris Manchester College.
As an infectious diseases doctor, I’m very interested in diagnostics and have a particular interest in diagnostics in low-resource settings. My dissertation was on the diagnosis of Ebola Virus Disease, a dangerous viral haemorrhagic fever that can cause epidemics such as the tragic West African outbreak between 2014 and 2016. Expeditious diagnosis of EVD is crucial to stop the spread of the disease through quarantine of affected individuals and vaccination of their contacts. We now have effective treatments for EVD and these are known to be more effective if used early. Fortunately, there is now a wide range of rapid diagnostic tests, similar to the lateral flow tests used during the COVID pandemic, which aim to expedite the diagnosis of EVD.
Synthesising the data from 12 published studies, I was able to define the diagnostic accuracy of these tests and suggest a role for them in clinical practice. I was also able to confirm that rapid diagnostic tests have a clear role as a ‘rule-in’ test for EVD and are a useful tool to initiate treatment pending results from the PCR laboratory test.
I’ve now published my dissertation in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection and I’m grateful to my supervisor Annette Plüddemann for supporting me with this. There is an ongoing outbreak of EVD in Uganda right now and I hope my review may be of some use to those responding to it.
I’ll certainly be back to complete some more short courses at the Centre and I hope to start a DPhil in the next few years. If you’re considering doing the MSc, I couldn’t recommend it more!