Category: Community

Posts by Jano Klimas about community, collaboration, charity and social welfare.

Random thoughts on academic mobility

What if you decide to take root, but discover a quicksand instead of a firm ground? Serendipitously, I have stumbled upon an essay about dislocation and walked into an exhibition about uprootedness on the same day.
As I wrote earlier, mobility is part of thejob description of early career academics.  A boost to the local university, economy and science are the promised trade-offs for the temporary relocation.  Few have considered the tremendous impacts that mobility has on people’s lives.

Bruce Alexander, a retired Psychology professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC, theorizes that dislocation causes addiction. Free markets force people to move where the work is and leave their connections behind.

Walter Scottinspired visitors of the Stride gallery in Calgary, Alberta, to think about the fragile links that tie oneself to the place where they are born. They are nourished over the lifetime, consciously or unconsciously. One may not realise how frail they are, until they become stretched to a point of breaking.
Finally, in the Letters to Grandchildren (Greystone Books, 2015), David Suzuki offers grandfatherly advice to his five grandchildren, including this story about the horrendous journey of his Japanese ancestors to Canada:

Health care research is untidy – what does it mean for postdocs? #CochraneCalgary2015

Why do we study health? Because we want to help patients. It’s no rocket science. And yet, most clinical trials do not measure outcomes that are important for patients. Besides, researchers don’t agree on what the core set of outcomes should be. “Health care research is untidy.” — Mike Clarke. In this post, I write about my experience of a conference about outcomes for clinical research and how it relates to postdoc training.


Systematic reviews are often required as part of a PhD or a postdoc training. Over 30,000 authors produce Cochranesystematic reviews of literature for the Cochrane library worldwide. The Canadian Cochrane centre hosted about a hundred of them at a recent joint conference, together with the COMET initiative (Core Outcome Measures in Trials), in Calgary, Canada (#CochraneCalgary2015).

Many junior postdocs who were at the conference struggled to publish papers. Yet, the number of publications is considered a core outcome of a postdoc training. Is it enough? What’s a core outcome set for a postdoc fellowship? “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” — Albert Einstein.

 Ultimately, the fellowship should result in a faculty position. But we know that there aren’t enough positions for all PhD’s and postdocs. The truth is that we don’t need so many PhDs. “PhD ‘overproduction’ is not new and faculty retirements won’t solve it,” writes Melonie Fullick in her speculative diction at University Affairs (March 25, 2015): “Yet somehow no matter how many PhDs enrol and graduate, academic careers are the goal.”


What lessons can postdocs take from the Cochrane collaboration to improve their career prospects? All Cochrane reviews must have a protocol. Cochrane protocols get published in the Cochrane library. However, protocols for non-Cochrane systematic reviews are difficult to publish in journals. Nevertheless, postdocs who decide to do a systematic review and can upload the review protocol on to their open-access universities’ depositories. They get picked up by the google.scholar and can be counted in the H-index. This way, junior postdocs can improve one of their core outcome measures – the track record. Although it’s probably not the best measure of a successful training, it’s the currency of science. 

Using Doctors Notes to See How They Treat people with Mental Health Disorders: New study out now

April 9th: Prevention and treatment of mental disorders challenge primary care doctors worldwide. Most of them use electronic medical records (EMRs) to keep track of their patients. A team of students and scientists from University of Limerick was led by Dr Cullen and wanted to see how doctors record mental health disorders in their records. They wanted to find out whether these notes can be used for research.


The researchers randomly sampled 690 patients from seven general practices in Ireland (age from18–95, 52% male, 52% low-income).

A mental disorder (most commonly anxiety/stress, depression and problem alcohol use) was recorded in the clinical records of 139 (20%) during the 2-year study period. While most patients with the common disorders had been prescribed medication (i.e. antidepressants or benzodiazepines), a minority had been referred to other agencies or received psychological interventions. ‘Free text’ consultation notes and ‘prescriptions’ were how most patients with disorders were identified. Diagnostic coding alone would have failed to identify 92% of patients with a disorder.
Although mental disorders are common in general practice, this study suggests their formal diagnosis, disease coding and access to psychological treatments are priorities for future research efforts.
Citation for the original study:  M. Gleeson, A. Hannigan, R. Jamali, K. Su Lin, J. Klimas, M. Mannix, Y. Nathan, R. O’Connor, C. O’Gorman, C. Dunne, D. Meagher and W. Cullen. Using electronic medical records to determine prevalence and treatment of mental disorders in primary care: a database study. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, available on CJO2015. doi:10.1017/ipm.2015.10. 
http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9641472&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0790966715000105

How Do We Make Tracks? Meeting of The Society for Technical Communication

January 31, 2015– The STC Canada West Coast chapter hosted a day for technical communicators, both new and those more seasoned, which included tips for finding writing jobs, successful grant proposals, benefits of career coaching and many more. In this post, I focus on two sessions that I attended about mistakes made by non-native users of English and informational interviews.
“Everybody makes mistakes; non-native users just add one more layer to the mistakes ecosystem.” Matsuno
Non-native users of English: who they are
Mark Matsuno is a technical writer with more than 12 years of experience as a technical translator specializing in Japanese-to-English translations of engineering and manufacturing documents.
 Despite the disadvantage inherent in being born in a non-English speaking country, the Non-native users of English have much strength. They are SMEs, i.e., subject matter experts. Her engineering-ese is her first language. His accent is terrible, but he writes almost flawlessly. Some cultures may be afraid of speaking, but may be great writers. Their fluency equals how well you they trick someone to think that they’re fluent
Lost in translation
There’s nothing really wrong with their writing, but it sounds awkward. The questions are how much energy do you put into the piece as an editor? How do you see yourself? As a champion of the end user; A defender of the English language; A teacher; someone trying to get on top of their workload
Common mistakes in non-native users of English
Adjective order; Plurals; Articles are something that gives Asian people a lot of problems;
Prepositions; Tense; Direct translation; Dated English (for example, I was once stung by a bumble-bee); Mixed formality.
How to stay sane
Learn another language. In Japanese you can improve quickly, because people in Japan laugh at you; the feedback on errors is instant. Use machine translations. Read plenty of well-written English.
Write lots. Engage in English conversation.
Informational interviews and networking
Wendy Hollingshead and Autumn Jonssen discussed how powerful networking and informational interviews job search tools can be.
Network. Become a member of writing organisations. Meet up. Decide what your industry of interest is and go to the industry specific events. Volunteer; get your email and your work out there. Not just random things but more focussed work that will help your career and the organisation that you volunteer for. Your goal for networking events should be to make at least one quality conversation and one quality connection. Do at least one event p/week. The more work you put in, the better results you’re going to get.
101 Informational interviews: Let them know your goal
The informational interviews can help you to figure out what you want. Find out how your interviewees got to where they are and get some advice from them. A good output from an II is a referral to someone who can bring you closer to your dream job. Always send a thank you note after the interview.

Finally, check out Michelle Vinci’s article on the STC website about using social media for your jobsearch: http://stcwestcoast.ca/chapter/using-social-media-for-your-job-search

New paper out now: Alcohol Screening among Opioid Agonist Patients in a Primary Care Clinic and an Opioid Treatment Program

February 25th: Drinking in people who also use other illicit drugs causes serious problems. Their doctors and health professionals can ask about alcohol, provide advice or refer the person to a specialist if the problem is too big. We had a look into medical notes of 200 people screened for an alcohol use disorder in a primary care clinic and another 200 people screened in an opioid treatment program over a two year period.
Chart reviews suggested that most people with opioid dependence (95%) seen in a federally qualified health center completed a routine annual alcohol screening; elevated scores in the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test were recorded for six people (3% of those screened) and brief interventions were completed with five of those people. 
 “When you know of … people who are using heroin, there’s a chance they’re using it IV, and if they’re using IV there’s a chance they’re accessing blood …, so if there’s people we have coming with Hep C that have been drinking there’s a whole other level of medical risk associated and it’s hard to stabilize anyone, so people are coming in ill or they have other doctors’ appointments or they’re just not physically able to engage in programs.” Physicians worried about opening up this complex issue and felt the system was not prepared.
The methadone program, in comparison, diagnosed alcohol abuse or dependence at admission in 27% (n = 54) of the patient records reviewed. People treated in the methadone program appeared to have higher rates of serious alcohol use disorders than those who received buprenorphine in the primary care clinic:
“It’s a lot easier to fly under the radar with alcohol than with other drugs.” Focus group participants recognized limitations of screening.
Practitioner focus groups were completed in the with four primary care physicians and eleven counsellors from the opioid treatment program to assess experience with and attitudes towards screening opioid agonist people for alcohol use disorders.
Focus groups suggested organizational, structural, provider, patient and community variables hindered or fostered alcohol screening. 
A primary care physician noted, “When people are in the more severe category and you run out of time and you can hand them a list of AA meetings around the town, but it’s just so unlikely that they are going to access it if they haven’t already. That warm hand off process is huge.”
Alcohol screening is feasible among opioid agonist people:
“Having a consistent way that we treat specific conditions, like alcoholism with this background and this level of care would be great. So that we can develop patterns and know how to treat them as they go.”
Effective implementation, however, requires physician training and systematic changes in workflow.
  A counselor stated, “Engagement is key; how we treat our patient has a lot to do with what they tell us, so if the people feel not judged, if they feel safe, they’re going to be more likely to engage in the treatment process.”

To read the full article, go to the website of the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02791072.2014.991859#abstract