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A Rare Opportunity

DSC_0359As a full-time teacher, it is relatively rare that I get the opportunity to go to teacher conferences, let alone the chance to attend an academic science meeting.  As a result, I was delighted to be invited to Evidence Live by Ruth Davis at the CEBM to contribute to a panel session on teaching evidence-based medicine, and, by the way, I could stay for the whole conference.  I was fortunate that the conference dates fell during my school’s Easter holiday, so there was no conflict with needing to take time out of school – very difficult in general and particularly at this time of year with the approaching GCSE and A Level exam season.

The two days of Evidence Live was a real education for me, not only in furthering my knowledge of evidence-based medicine methodology, but also hearing about the subtle shifts in the field. There was a significant focus through the meeting on the role of the patient in understanding the decisions that need to be made, as a collaboration between patient, clinician and research evidence.

From a personal perspective, the chance to share ideas about how evidence-based medicine can be incorporated more explicitly into the school curriculum has been fantastic. There are lots of links, particularly in the new GCSE specifications, where teachers have the opportunity to introduce students to the principles of EBM.  There are openings in the Biology subject content and in ‘Working Scientifically’, an aspect of the course aimed at developing students’ confidence at understanding scientific methods and application.  I hope that, with the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine exploring how they might support teachers in the delivery of both curricular and extracurricular EBM activities, there will be more opportunities for researchers and clinicians to work with teachers.

What the conference really showed me was that members of the EBM community, and “hangers on” like me, all have different skills. If we want to engage current school children, the general public, or patients in GP surgeries and hospitals, in these vital topics, we will have to work together much more to do it.

My conference highlights:

  • Trish Greenhalgh using personal experience to demonstrate how individualised care of patients really doesn’t mean strictly following “the evidence-based guidelines”.
  • Anne-Marie Cunningham, Deb Cohen and Paul Wicks’ session on EBM and the media – it was good to see the media portrayed in a positive light as well as thinking about the way that specific vocabulary within an article is open to different interpretations. The phrase “carries an increased risk” that Anne-Marie used as an example, from the recent Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology paper on obesity and dementia, shows how some people (even in the audience) felt that this implied causation and others that it was merely an association.
  • David Nunan’s workshop on critical appraisal of systematic reviews – even these, held up as the pinnacle of the evidence quality hierarchy, may not be all that perfect. There was a lot of discussion in this session that was excellent and challenged me that my stats knowledge needs a brush-up.  I’m also hoping to look at this analysis of reviews to see if we can adapt it for using with A Level students too.

Blog written by Sarah Pannell, Biology teacher at Lingfield Notre Dame School in Surrey and Evidence Live 2015 panel member
Tw: @MrsDrSarah

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