Niklas Bobrovitz: “why not stand on the shoulders of giants?”

Nik Bobrovitz

Nik Bobrovitz is a DPhil student with the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, and also teaches on MSc modules in the following areas: Critically Appraising Randomised Controlled Trials; Developing Clinical Guidelines; Designing Research to have Value and Impact.

What was your earliest ambition?

Early childhood: to be a lawyer and have lots of gold.

Middle school: to play in the NBA.

High school: to be a doctor and help to improve the health of the people in my community.

Undergraduate degree: to be an expert in health policy and clinical medicine and to help to improve the health of people in Canada.

Masters/PhD: help to improve the health of people all over the world.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

I’m not pandering here, I promise, but my research supervisors: Tom Stelfox, Maria Santana, Kamal Mahtani and Carl Heneghan. In my undergrad and masters, Tom and Maria were very supportive and taught me to be a productive, sociable researcher. They gave me tons of freedom to develop and carry out my research. It was inspiring because I saw how much of an impact excellent supervisors can have on a student’s life. I was an average high-school student. Now I’m at Oxford University doing my PhD! My supervisors here are inspiring for different reasons. I have seen the value and impact of the work that Carl and Kamal do, and the keen analytical approach they take to solving problems. I find their problem solving capacity and valuable productivity inspiring.

Why did you get into EBM?

I would say I’m more into Evidence-Based Healthcare, which is the application of the best available evidence, patient needs and values, resource considerations, and expert judgement to make decisions about health systems and services. And got into it because it made sense. In my undergrad, before I ever heard of evidence-based anything, my approach to solving health-care problems naturally evolved to reflect the EBM philosophy. I started doing research on quality measurement and improvement with a focus on patient-centered care. I felt patients were not advocated for well in the health system and wanted to develop tools and strategies to improve care that put them at the centre. It made sense to consult all the relevant stakeholders (patients, physicians, nurses, etc.) and find a harmony in their perspectives. It quickly became clear to me that health systems need cost effective solutions, so I became cognisant of resource use. And of course I incorporated the best existing evidence on the topic because why not stand on the shoulders of giants?

What do you feel has made the most difference in EBM?

Energetic thought leaders.

Describe your approach to research in three words.

Practical. Applied. Value.

What do you like most about teaching?

Teaching is a privilege and comes with the responsibility of being prepared for any audience and any question. In the process of preparing I’m forced to master the material thoroughly. I like to learn and I like to feel as though I have a strong knowledge base in a variety of subjects. Teaching pushes me to achieve those things.

Do you have any regrets about becoming a doctor?

I have not yet been clinically trained although I do plan on going to medical school. However, the fact you’re asking this question makes me slightly worried about it!

What has been your most innovative piece of teaching?

Last year Dylan Collins and I started to teach sessions on EBM basics to physicians and nurses in India as part of our organisation Evidence International. From the Department of Primary Care in Oxford we used Skype and Google Hangouts to teach 40 people including a range of junior to senior clinicians in New Delhi, India. Most of the time I wasn’t even wearing shoes!

When are you having the most fun at work?

When I’m finishing projects.

If you weren’t a doctor/teacher, what would you be doing instead?

Conservation biology, physiotherapy, or fighting forest fires. Maybe all three at once.

What do you find hardest when teaching?

Ensuring there is a coherent narrative throughout a session that ties everything together and keeps people engaged. Also, making sure people walk away from my sessions with tangible skills.

If you were given £1 million for research, what would you do?

I don’t want to say because someone will steal my idea.

What one resource should every EBM enthusiast read?

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.


For more interviews in this series, please click here.