Looking back, with an MSc Evidence-Based Health Care
What inspired you to enroll on the EBHC programme?
A retrospective view from Alex Stevenson.
Three years ago I started on a career and life-changing journey.
In 2010 I had recently qualified as a general practitioner and also had an appointment at the Australian National University medical school. I had some qualitative research experience but was looking to extend my skills and pursue a masters degree. The well-trodden path would have been to enroll in a Masters of Public Health here in Australia, but in choosing to extend my search more broadly, I came across the MSc in EBHC at the Univeristy of Oxford. The concept of doing a Masters Degree in Evidence Based Health Care intrigued me. It was an area that I had some basic knowledge of and I had been a small group tutor for some EBM sessions at my medical school. The more I looked into it the more I thought it was the right thing for me. I already read papers and made clinical decisions, but the opportunity to develop serious skills in understanding how we ask and answer questions in health care would contribute to my career in whatever future direction it took.
How did you get involved in postgraduate study?
In 2011 I applied for and was awarded a position on the course. Instead of the usual method of completing the modules part time whilst working, my wife and I decided to move to Oxford for a year so I could complete the course full-time. This was a good decision for the both of us. I was able to immerse myself in the course and soak up all that (albeit slightly more mature) student life could give me and she could use her own professional skills to volunteer at the world class Museums in and around Oxford. Another (very important) motivation to make the move across the world was that my mother’s family came from Oxford and I have always enjoyed spending time there.
The only problem with the elective modules in the MSc was that I had to choose only four. The modules I completed were randomised controlled trials, systematic reviews, clinical epidemiology and decision making and bioethics + good clinical practice (perhaps I’ll have to come back to do some of the others as short courses).
For my dissertation I undertook a systematic review into the diagnostic test accuracy of reflectance confocal microscopy in the diagnosis of melanoma. As a GP in Australia I see a lot of skin cancer and I have always had an interest in diagnostics. My supervisor was very helpful in facilitating my introduction to several experts who were able to assist me with identifying a research question which aligned my interests and they could also provide expert input when required. I was fortunate to find another MSc student in my cohort (Mekhala Ayya) who was also undertaking a systematic review. Working together we were able to do double searching and double data extraction to add validity to each other’s reviews.
How has this MSc had an impact on your life now?
After a magical, career changing year in Oxford, we returned home at the end of 2012 and the whole experience has recently culminated in having the systematic review that I completed for my MSc in EBHC masters dissertation published in Dermatology: Practical and Conceptual. I was so inspired by my teachers and the subject matter that I decided I wanted to pursue work in an area that I could use my new found skills (above and beyond that used in clinical practice).
I now work as a medical officer at the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia. My role is in the post market area where I assess emerging safety signals for medicines. It is a diverse and challenging role which allows me to use all of the skills that I developed in Oxford and apply them to important real world questions.