Annette Plüddemann is Course Director for the MSc in Evidence-Based Healthcare.
What was your earliest ambition?
From as early as I can remember, I have wanted to be a scientist. According to my family, I have been “asking for the evidence” from an early age…although this was expressed as “but why?” and “how does that work?”
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I love reading about the history of scientific and medical discoveries and there are certainly many inspirational people who have furthered our knowledge and understanding. In particular, though, I am most inspired by people who did things contrary to what was expected or went against conventional wisdom. For example, women who worked in research or medicine, some in times when it was less common for women to study these fields; women such as Elizabeth Blackwell, Margaret Sanger, Marie Curie and Dorothy Hodgkin to name a few. All of them were passionate about their areas of research or medicine and showed what can be achieved if we think outside the norms and keep asking questions.
Why did you get into EBM?
During the early part of my career I worked in Microbiology and Immunology and although I enjoyed laboratory research very much, I was always interested in the application of research into practice. Working in EBM, the “conscientious, explicit, judicious and reasonable use of modern, best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients”, means that the research I do is more focused on specific healthcare questions, which I really enjoy.
Describe your approach to research in three words.
Passionate, methodical, inquisitive.
What do you like most about teaching?
The interaction with students from all kinds of backgrounds and countries is what I enjoy most about teaching. Not only are you able to help them acquire new skills, but I also learn from their experience and expertise. Thinking about different ways to explain concepts or answer questions to a variety of audiences means you really have to engage with the subject, which therefore also improves your own level of understanding. After a session of teaching some statistical concepts, one student once told me “it’s as if a fog has been lifted” – still one of the best things I’ve ever been told.
What has been your most innovative piece of teaching?
I always try to find ways to teach concepts in a simple manner, using real-world examples, news stories or videos, without a lot of jargon and terminology. For example, teaching predictive values in diagnostic studies using natural frequencies, a real-world scenario, and a relevant news story, rather than just from a 2×2 table. I always challenge my students whenever they use terminology (such as relative risks, predictive values, sensitivity/specificity etc) to think about how they would explain this to their children or family members or parents. When you can explain something in very simple terms you know that you really understand it.
When are you having the most fun at work?
In terms of teaching, leading a session where everyone is engaged and interested in the topic and there is a lot of interaction is one of the best things anyone can do. When it comes to research, the best part is drafting a paper and seeing a piece of work take shape.
If you weren’t a doctor/teacher what would you be doing instead?
This is a difficult question to answer. I still think doing research, understanding research and teaching others these skills is the best job in the world.
What do you find hardest when teaching?
Regaining everyone’s attention when there has been a lively discussion session or activity can be tricky sometimes. I don’t have the loudest of voices, so maybe I should learn how to whistle, although recently I observed a teacher who used the alarm function on their mobile phone for this…perhaps that is something I could try.
If you were given £1 million for research, what would you do?
I would do research to address the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance.
What one resource should every EBM enthusiast read?
Effectiveness and Efficiency, Random reflections on health services. A.L. Cochrane (1971): http://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/sites/files/nuffield/publication/Effectiveness_and_Efficiency.pdf.
Alongside this I highly recommend reading his description of his “first worst and most successful trial”: http://www.bmj.com/content/289/6460/1726.
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