Mr Epidemiology

No, I'm not a skin doctor



Interview with Margriet Den Boer about Leishmaniasis: MSF Scientific Day May 25th 2012!

So on Monday I spoke a little bit about MSF’s Scientific Day (to be held this Friday, May 25th 2012). Today, I’m welcoming Margriet Den Boer, MSc, PharmD, MPH, to the blog to talk about her experiences in Bangladesh dealing with Leishmaniasis. Margriet completed her PharmD in the Netherlands and obtained a Masters Degree in Public Health in Developing Countries at the London School of Tropical Medicine. The last 10 years Margriet worked with MSF and WHO, in a combination of activities related to leishmaniasis and pharmaceutical matters, including access to drugs. Her focus is to draw more attention to leishmaniasis, and lift it out of its status of neglected disease.

For those who want to learn more about leishmaniasis, @EpiDoctor (Michael Walsh) has a great post on his blog Infection Landscapes.

Remember: You can follow along online on the MSF Facebook page, Twitter @msf_uk or by using the hashtag #MSFSD.

How did you end up with Medecins sans Frontieres? Was this always part of “the plan”?

Yes, I was always hoping to work in humanitarian aid, and especially for Medecins sans Frontieres, even though with my background in pharmacy and pharmacology there are not that many possibilities. I was very lucky as MSF Holland opened up a pharmacist position after I finished my studies. At that time I was the only pharmacist in MSF – now there is a whole network of them.

Continue reading “Interview with Margriet Den Boer about Leishmaniasis: MSF Scientific Day May 25th 2012!”

Interview with Petros Isaakidis about HPV and HIV: MSF Scientific Day May 25th 2012!

So on Monday I spoke a little bit about MSF’s Scientific Day (to be held this Friday, May 25th 2012). Today, I’m welcoming Petros Isaakidis, MD, PhD, to the blog to talk about his experiences in India with HPV. Petros is a medical epidemiologist. He has worked as a clinician for the National Health System in various parts of Greece and as an epidemiologist for the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, in Athens. He was a biological disasters planner during the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, and in-charge of infectious diseases surveillance and outbreak investigations. He has been volunteering and working for humanitarian organizations, mainly Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Zimbabwe, Gaza Strip & West Bank, Kenya, Cambodia, Thailand, Lesotho and India. During this period he coordinated medical projects, especially large scale HIV and TB projects and supported evidence generation through field-based operational research projects.

Remember: You can follow along online on the MSF Facebook page, Twitter @msf_uk or by using the hashtag #MSFSD.

Hi Petros! Welcome to Mr Epidemiology! Why don’t we start with you telling your audience who you are and where you work?

Hi! Thanks for the hospitality! I’m a Medical Epidemiologist (which is only slightly different from a skin doctor…) and I am currently with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Mumbai, India working as Operational Research Focal Person.

Continue reading “Interview with Petros Isaakidis about HPV and HIV: MSF Scientific Day May 25th 2012!”

Interview with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders’ Becky Roby for Scientific Day May 25th 2012!

MSF Scientific Day 2012 Trailer from MSF on Vimeo.

I was recently contacted by Becky Roby, an intern with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders in the UK. The guys over at MSF hold an annual Scientific Day, where public health professionals working for MSF and other organizations come together to discuss their research. There’s an agenda available online for you to check out. Their speakers are in the thick of the action, helping people at the grassroots level.

What piqued my interest though is that they are fully embracing social media for their conference. While I have discussed how you can use Twitter at a conference (along with SciCurious), MSF will be livetweeting the conference. They are streaming it online, and you can ask questions on Twitter that the researcher can address in the post-presentation Q&A period.

You can follow along online on their Facebook page, on Twitter @msf_uk or by using the hashtag #MSFSD.

I’m hoping to have a few interviews up this week with people involved with the Scientific Day, so make sure to check back! Today, I’m welcoming Becky Roby to the blog, who is helping organize the Scientific Day.

Continue reading “Interview with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders’ Becky Roby for Scientific Day May 25th 2012!”

A Mr Epid-inar: 3MT – The Three Minute Thesis Contest!

Mr Epid-inar’s are short talks delivered by Mr Epidemiology at various venues; classes, conferences, speaker series’ etc. They should not be confused with the leafy green vegetable (French humour! Le woohoo!)

3MT is a public speaking contest started at the University of Queensland back in 2008. In three minutes, you have to describe your PhD and why it is important. You are judged on your communication style, comprehension and how well you engage the audience. Oh, and you are only allowed one (static) PowerPoint slide. Recently, Queen’s University decided they wanted to host a 3MT contest, and send out an email asking for participants.

Well, that sounds difficult. And a little ridiculous – I’m supposed to condense my PhD into 3 minutes, without any slides, and still do it justice?

Very well. Challenge accepted!

3MT Talk from Mr Epidemiology on Vimeo.

Some thoughts on 3MT. I found the contest to be absolutely incredible. As an audience member, the presentation aspect was fun and novel, and I probably learnt more about what my colleagues were doing in that 90 minute session than I have in the last 2 years I’ve been at Queen’s. The variety of research was great, and because people were told to make it accessible for those outside of their area, they really worked hard and making the concepts clear. I think this, combined with PechaKucha 20×20, are great ways to break up the existing research paradigm and inject some life and energy into conferences.

As a presenter, I found the experience invaluable. Being forced to really ask what is important for the audience to know helped me distill my thesis down to its core components. Also, trying to come up with an exciting and novel way of presenting it was fun. If you have the opportunity to enter a 3MT contest near you, I strongly recommend doing it!! If you’ve been to a 3MT talk, let me know your experiences in the reply!

Special thanks to Anne G, Lindsay K, Kim F, Raymond F, Katie K, Rebecca B, Julia N and the rest of the Clinical Research Centre for their feedback on previous drafts of my 3MT talk. Also thanks to Jess S, Michelle D, Alison Y and all my Epi and Kinesiology friends who showed up to support me on the day. Finally, thanks to Colette Steer and all the organizers and judges of the 3MT contest!

#StopKONY: Or, the importance of critically evaluating data in the information age

EDIT 14/03/12: As pointed out in the comments, the accuracy of the PubMed’s database needs to be considered when analyzing retractions. Thanks L. Wynholds!

Unless you’ve completely been avoiding all social media platforms this week, you’ve likely come across the #StopKony/#Kony2012 campaign. In short, a group called Invisible Children created the video above that was meant to make Joseph Kony infamous, and encourage governments and people to act against him. By raising awareness, you can make a difference, the filmmakers argue.

The video went up, and almost immediately went viral. It was uploaded on March 4th, 2012. By March 5th, it had over 25 million views. As of March 11th i.e. one week, it has over 70 million views.

What I find most interesting though, is that almost immediately after the video went up, people started digging. And suddenly, this campaign was being questioned and criticized. Sites such as Visible Children found  questionable information about the campaign, and it wasn’t long before the media started asking questions; Jezebel, NY Daily News, CTV, The Huffington Post (which featured comments from Ugandans) and The Atlantic all penned articles ranging from slamming Invisible Children (Jezebel) to presenting both sides (CTV). People were critical, they dug up information, and they presented facts to back up their criticisms.

Scientists are familiar with this process: It’s peer review.

Continue reading “#StopKONY: Or, the importance of critically evaluating data in the information age”

Romance is not a romantic comedy: The importance of good exposure measurement

If you live in Kingston, you may have come across this headline:

Kingston, ON is the most romantic city in Canada

Wonderful you think – after all, Kingston does have that small city charm, with lots of historical buildings, quaint little cafes and restaurants as well as being right on the water. Lots of romantic movie potential, where big city Sandra Bullock moves to a small town only to fall for lovable country mouse Ryan Reynolds.

It's like if you had this movie set in Kingston, instead of Alaska! .... which I wouldn't know because I've never seen it *cough*

And then you read the article more closely, and determine how they measured the “romanticness” of a city:

The online retailer bases its list by comparing sales data of romance novels, sex and relationship books, romantic comedy DVDs and CDs by Canadian crooner Michael Buble since Jan. 1 on a per capita basis in cities with more than 80,000 residents.

Wait, what?

Continue reading “Romance is not a romantic comedy: The importance of good exposure measurement”

Mr Epidemiology in the news!

This was one of the interviews that I did! (Picture courtesy Rachel L.)

Recently I had a paper of mine published in the journal Obesity Facts. I was thrilled – this was one of the papers from my MSc and it had finally found a home for itself, after being rejected from three separate journals. Friend of the blog Dr Arya Sharma heard about the study, and covered it in his blog.

And that’s where things got crazy.

Queen’s put out a press release that got picked up by the media, and so I spent the better part of last week doing interviews. Among the news outlets that I talked to were the CBC, Global News, The Globe and Mail, the National Post,, the Kingston Whig Standard and Yahoo News.

I also did radio interviews with several stations including The Motts (interview starts @ 23 minutes), The Scott Thompson Show on CHML Hamilton (Jan 24th 2012) and The Richard Brown Show on CKOM 650.

I just want to thank all the wonderful reporters who I talked to. They were really helpful and very insightful in what they asked. It was a new experience for me, and their patience was absolutely incredible. I’ll be posting some reflections next week on my dealings with the media – while it was an absolutely phenomenal experience and a huge honour, it was also terrifying and a little surreal.

How many calories are in that burger?: Do our estimates become more accurate with labelling Recently, there has been a push to mandate labelling in fast food restaurants and stores. In the US, this is a huge initiative, passed as part of the 2010 Health Reform Bill (for another view on this, check out Dr Yoni Freedhoff’s post). This Bill mandated that all restaurants with more than 20 locations nationally had to post nutritional information on their website.

There’s a lot of ammo on both sides: some think that people should be responsible for their food choices, and that restaurants shouldn’t have to put up nutritional information. After all, they don’t *force* you to eat it. On the other hand, others advocate that knowing what is in your food will help you make a more informed decision.

Do you know how many calories are in a regular Big Mac? Take a guess. The answer is at the end of this post.

Regardless of your viewpoint, it all becomes irrelevant if the nutritional information doesn’t actually make a difference; if people don’t read and remember them, then what is the point?

And this is where today’s paper comes in.

More after this word from our sponsors … (click read more)

Continue reading “How many calories are in that burger?: Do our estimates become more accurate with labelling”

Don’t call kids “obese”: Parental preferences for what you call their child Obese youth are often stigmatized by society, and this stigmatization can have drastic, and long lasting consequences ranging from decreased self esteem to increased suicidal ideation. And for those youth who remain obese into adulthood, they also face worse employment, educational opportunities and even stigmatization by healthcare professionals.

Knowing that obese youth face this sort of discrimination, and the toll this can take on parents, you have to wonder what effect Pediatricians can have. Given that parents put a lot of trust in pediatricians, and often pediatricians form the first port of call for parents concerned about their child’s weight, the words they use and the policies they promote can make a lot of difference to those concerned about their weight.

The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity is a world leader in obesity stigma research

This led to a study being conducted Dr Rebecca Puhl and colleagues at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, where they asked parents what terms they would like pediatricians to use when talking about a child with a higher than ideal weight, and also what action they would take if their doctor used stigmatizing language. As I’ll talk about later, the article caused a bit of a firestorm online.

Continue reading “Don’t call kids “obese”: Parental preferences for what you call their child”

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