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In this blog interview Dr Susannah Fleming shares with us which systematic review that she’s led or been involved in she would choose to take with her to read, if she was stranded on a desert island.

A beautiful tropical island with white sand beaches turquoise sea and blue sky with a picture of a parent and small child superimposed

Can you introduce yourself and share your role in the MSc EBHC (Systematic Reviews) programme?

Hi, I’m Susannah.  I work in the medical statistics group at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, and I am a module co-ordinator for two of the optional modules on the MSc: Introduction to Study Design and Research Methods, and Essential Medical Statistics.

If you were stranded on a "Desert Island", which systematic review that you have led or been involved in might you take with you to read?

The Diagnostic Value of Capillary Refill Time for Detecting Serious Illness in Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (

What type of review was it?

A systematic review and meta-analysis of diagnostic test accuracy.

Why did you choose this review?

A couple of reasons.  Firstly, it was really fun to do because of the wide range of studies that I got to read, but it was also challenging because most of the studies didn’t report 2 x 2 tables that were needed for the meta-analysis.  I remember pages and pages of notes in my notebook that were just 2 x 2 tables that I was reconstructing from the data. I also got to write some fun code in R to summarise the results visually. 

What did your review show?

That a prolonged capillary refill time in a child is a useful “red-flag” for serious illness, but a normal capillary refill isn’t necessarily reassuring.

What did you particularly enjoy about the review?

I actually enjoyed reconstructing the 2 x 2 tables – it was like solving a puzzle, and I’m a complete geek so getting to write R code was fun for me too!

Reflecting on your review, what one learning would you offer individuals completing a systematic review for the first time?

Make friends with the librarian.  This was the first systematic review I did with librarian support, and it was a complete revelation. Not only are they experts in searching, but they can also help you find the papers you need, even if (as I once found) they have been consistently mis-cited by other authors.

Finally, If you were stranded on a "Desert Island" and about to read your review, what one food or drink treat would you bring with you?

It has to be a box of chocolates.  And maybe a cup of hot chocolate to go with it (who said the desert island had to be tropical?)


You can learn more about the MSc EBHC (Systematic Reviews) programme through the dedicated webpage or by contacting

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CEBM as a group.