Neville Gibbs

Student spotlight details

Australian anaesthetist Neville Gibbs decided to try something different and enrolled on our MSc in Evidence-Based Health Care programme, which allowed him to attend the face-to-face weeks in Oxford, and then complete the assignments online from his home in Perth.

'In 2016, at age 59, I had been a consultant anaesthetist for 30 years and was practising full-time at a tertiary hospital in Western Australia. In addition to my undergraduate medical degree, I had a Doctor of Medicine from The University of Western Australia, a qualification in transoesophageal echocardiography, and a title of Clinical Professor. I had published nearly 100 articles, editorials, or letters in peer-reviewed journals, and was the chief editor of an anaesthesia journal.  

'As I was about to turn 60, I decided to do something different. I had an interest in medical statistics and as a journal editor, thought this was an important area to develop. When searching options I noticed the MSc in Evidence-Based Health Care programme at Oxford University. The modular part-time structure suited me because I could attend the requisite face-to-face weeks in Oxford, and then complete the assignments online from my base in Perth, Australia. There was also a wide range of modules from which to choose, many relating to medical statistics.  

'I started my first module in November 2016 and was challenged immediately by the manifest depth and breadth of knowledge required for the effective practice of evidence-based health care. At the same time, I was reassured that the course would guide me to this knowledge and was impressed by the interactive methods of teaching, the friendliness, the inclusivity, and the encouragement. I told Clare Bankhead, the module coordinator, after my first face-to-face week, that I had learned more in that week than in any other previous week of my academic career.  

'The assignments were always exacting. Fortunately, I usually had at least a week off work to complete each assignment. Nevertheless, at some stage during each assignment, I had a period of self-searching: “Can I really do this?” “Perhaps this course is not for me after all?” As it happens, all the information required to complete the assignments was presented during the face-to-face weeks and in handouts or recommended reading. Moreover, the post-Oxford weeks were basically a series of mini-assignments with on-line feedback to take us through the material to be covered in the formal assignment. If anything, the fact that I struggled at times led to a greater appreciation of the value of the course.  

'I felt that I was achieving my goal of a better understanding of the course content and felt increasingly empowered. This was the most rewarding aspect. As far as enjoyment went, I felt that there was little not to enjoy; from the lectures, tutorials and workshops themselves, the interaction with tutors and other students, to the directed reading, the assignments, and the exposure to Oxford University and its history, parks, pubs, and traditions. The module on Diagnostic Accuracy and Screening gelled most closely with my previous work, and I decided on a dissertation in this area. 

'I was fortunate to have Annette Plüddemann as my dissertation supervisor, and will always be grateful for her direction and hard questions, which led me to seek better answers. I will also always be grateful to Richard Stevens, who taught on many of my modules and who conveyed complex statistical concepts in an accessible manner. I was very pleased to complete the dissertation in 2019 and to obtain my MSc. I was particularly pleased to receive the Gillian Nicholls Prize for my dissertation.

'I am continuing to work full time as an anaesthetist in Perth, and as a journal editor. The MSc has improved my critical thinking in relation to evidence-based health care, and in particular, diagnosis and screening and medical statistics. This is benefit enough. However, I am putting my new skills and knowledge to good practical use in my own research and teaching, my clinical work, and my editorial work. I am now better able to appraise submitted articles and assist authors with their questions and revisions and to put names to, and present solutions for, errors made.  

'I would have no hesitation in recommending the MSc in Evidence-Based Health Care to anyone seeking to improve their own health care practice, or the practice of health care more generally. For me, in the words of John Locke, one of my favourite Oxford heroes, “…it is ambition enough …in clearing the ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge…”, if not for others, then at least for myself.'

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