Trish Greenhalgh: “I wanted to be a doctor from age 3.”

January 1, 2016

Prof Trish Greenhalgh, Module Co-ordinator: Knowledge into Action

Prof Trish Greenhalgh

Professor Trish Greenhalgh is joint Module Co-ordinator for Knowledge Into Action (KIA). She is also Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences and co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Research In Health Sciences (IRIHS) unit at the University of Oxford.

What was your earliest ambition?

I wanted to be a doctor from age 3.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Many people, and often it’s groups and networks that inspire me rather than individuals. (This seems a strange question since EBM is supposed to be about going beyond ’eminence based medicine’!)

Why did you get into EBM?

I was a young academic at the time EBM was emerging as a new and exciting theme in academia. I recall a clinical case in which a young woman asked me whether she should keep taking her second-generation oral contraceptive or switch to a third-generation pill. EBM allowed me to answer her question far better than I could have done by clinical experience alone (though not eliminate the uncertainties).

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

Small to medium sized trials with definitive results. Mega-trials usually mean the effect is small and there’s not much to choose between the two treatment arms!

Describe your approach to research in three words.

Creative, clinical, insouciant.

What do you like most about teaching?

Being put on the spot by students and adult learners who take me outside the little world I’ve been living in. 

Do you have any regrets about becoming a doctor?


What has been your most innovative piece of teaching?

Workshop on dancing your PhD.

When are you having the most fun at work?

Analysing data alongside developing theory.

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


What do you find hardest when teaching?

Conscripts (people who have to be in the room to tick a box but who are not motivated to engage).

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

Provide five mid-career fellowships for qualitative postdocs to pursue their own ideas.

What one resource should every EBM enthusiast read?

Thomas Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

For more interviews in this series, please click here.

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