An International DPhil Experience: Geneva, Oxford and Vancouver

January 13, 2015


Marcy McCall MacBain


The Purpose

In previous research experiences at McMaster University, Canada, the London School of Economics, United Kingdom and the World Health Organization (WHO), Switzerland, I focussed on chronic disease prevention, school food policy and improving health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in persons with spinal cord injury.
From my desk as a Foundation executive in Geneva, Switzerland, I found the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM) in April 2010. At that time, I was looking to advance my thinking around cost-effective and impactful grant-making in health care.

To suit my professional and personal agenda, I identified three criteria for the ideal mode of future study:

  1. It had to be flexible, to accommodate work as a Foundation executive, an already hectic travel schedule, and the imminent birth of my second child.
  2. It had to be ‘pitched’ for action; I have a deep aversion to idle conferences and a just-as-deep admiration for active learning.
  3. It had to be delivered by exceptional people, by people who really know what they’re talking about, who are passionate about their subject, and are equally keen to teach it.

To identify potential solutions to my requirements, I performed a ‘google’ search using three key terms: education, health care, oxford and found the Centre for Evidence-Based Health Care.

The Path

At first, I attended an introductory workshop . During this rapid-fire session, I learned about key EBM concepts including question development and appropriate research designs. Given the workshop experience exceeded my expectations, I attended a 5-day module on Systematic Reviews. Attending this course was one of the most interesting (and nerdy) weeks of my life. Shortly after, I made an application to the international part-time DPhil program.

Four years on, under the adept supervision of Professor Carl Heneghan and Dr Alison Ward, my near-finished DPhil thesis has applied principles of evidence-based medicine (EBM) and the Medical Research Council’s framework for developing yoga as a complex intervention in health care. As part of my research, I recently completed a randomised feasibility trial of yoga intervention to improve HRQoL in adult cancer patients in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Outcome

In my experience, the CEBM is an association that facilitates a flexible learning environment, with opportunities for impactful research and active learning. The CEBM at Oxford boasts exceptional leaders (and teachers) in the field of health care. In the final stages of thesis preparation, I am looking forward to expanding my reach in EBM and improving the conduct of research in preventative health care strategies.

“Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

If you have questions about my research, CEBM experience or the DPhil program itself, please don’t hesitate to ask:

2 comments on “An International DPhil Experience: Geneva, Oxford and Vancouver

  1. Thanks for this encouraging, practical message. The message “Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
    Albert Einstein (1879-1955) resonates with me and I find that in life when the student is ready, the teacher appears.

    It is wonderful to see a dedicated evidence based focus on wellness initiatives/interventions such as yoga.

    I appreciate the courage, hard work and pioneering that goes into taking a promising but less traveled route in research.

    It encourages me reading about your journey. Thank you on behalf of citizens everywhere for empowering us! All the best with your near finished EBHC DPHIL and for contributing to putting Evidence into Practice in prevention based health

  2. Glad you are enjoying thgnis still as your move into the second year. I’m loving thgnis at QUB so far, it’s been nice to change institution (again), it keeps thgnis fresh for me. looking forward to settling down a bit here now and really getting my teeth into this research.

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