Pedicabs, Cochrane & Drugs Conference in San Diego

I was in San Diego (CA) 9 years ago. We went there with my wife, then a girlfriend, on a J1 Student work & travel programme. We worked as pedicab drivers – did not make much money but got the best tan (and time) in our lives. This year, we returned to Sand Diego for my presentation at the conference of the College on Problems of Drugs Dependence.

The drugs conference

This was probably the biggest conference I’ve ever attended. I underestimated the power that such enormous scientific stimulation can have on my thinking and experiencing of the world of addictions. My notebook is again full of ideas for research and life. To share just one of them, Wyoming is the only state in which has free access to Cochrane reviews in US. Cochrane collaboration is committed to produce high quality reviews of scientific evidence which aim to change the clinical practice and policy. USA produces the biggest number of studies that get included in Cochrane reviews. Are they not interested in reading what Cochrane reviews make of their clinical trials?

As I was coming back from the conference hotel to my hostel in the down town, I passed by an older man in red jacket entering the historical Simmons hotel with a bag of groceries. ‘I used to live here, 9 months ago’ said I when I saw him. ‘Nine years ago, I used to be a general manager of this hotel’ was his response. Back then, it was very difficult to convince this stern man that we would be able to pay our rent from our pedicab money. His face glowed when he finished our small talk ‘It’s a nice place to live’.

The pedicabs

To my big surprise, we haven’t seen many pedicabs on the streets of San Diego. But it didn’t discourage us from taking a memorial ride from the US Midway to down town. We stopped a driver from Canada wearing a US flag as his head band. He explained what has caused the decline of pedicabs in SD:

  • no J1 student drivers allowed (since 2009)
  • the upper limit of new licenses – drop from 600 to 200
  • Californian driving license required (since 2011)
  • insurance for all

… we still didn’t manage to get on the Midway, maybe next time.
My new friend Portland, John Fitzgerald, PhD, wrote about this conference too, in his June blog.

What agonist patients think about alcohol #SBIRT? A new paper out now

What do patients attending family physicians for methadone treatment think of screening and brief interventions for alcohol problems? Except for being screened at the intake, few recalled routine screening or treatment, and felt that primary care staff should be more proactive when addressing excessive drinking.
Check out our new qualitative study (www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2296/14/98/abstract)

Cochrane wins the best paper award in the General Practice category at the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland (#Cochrane)

 Last night, our Cochrane review about Psychosocial interventions to reduce alcohol consumption in concurrent problem alcohol and illicit drug users won the best paper award in the General Practice category at the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland (RAMI)
I’ve heard that it was a great award ceremony night, but I wasn’t able to attend because I’m in Portland (OR) working on a NIDA INVEST fellowship. One of our co-authors, Prof Dunne (UL GEMS Head of research) kindly received the award on our behalf.
Enda Connolly, the Chief Executive at the HRB (*review funder), commended on the award: ‘The HRB is committed to funding top-quality health research that is likely to have an impact on patient care and the health services that they receive,’read more at: http://www.hrb.ie/index.php?id=642&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=244
 Or download the full text review here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD009269.pub2/abstract

Cochrane conference in Ireland: Making an impact? (#cochraneevidence)

Another conference’s over. This one is among my favourites because it’s about Cochrane collaboration. It attracted around 70 delegates who came to Queens university in Belfast this year.

Lots of interesting discussions with colleagues, e.g. how do you define an expert? or What’s an ideal composition of an expert panel or a committee? It would seem that senior academics, professors or directors are the right experts, but truth may not be so straightforward. Some of these senior people may be simply too busy or think they know it all. Inclusion of junior staff, post-docs, nurses or systematic review authors on expert panels is better because they lack the weaknesses mentioned earlier. What more, they may be the most hard working group in the academia or research in general. Because of that, hey are likely to be dedicated members of expert panels.

A whole different discussion was going on between the conference delegates on Twitter:

Hearing and talking about my/ fellow reviewers’ experiences of doing SRs made me think about what was special different about my own experience or review:

  • it was my first review
  • I’ve applied a truly systematic approach, which received praise from my quality advisor (see previous blog post)
  • it was real quick
  • I had multiple presentations and non-peer reviewed articles about the review
  • I worked for 2 universities
  • I’ve used EPPI-reviewer software, unlike many of my fellow colleagues
  • I’ve used a lot of support from our health information specialists
  • it was done within a unique Health Research Board of Ireland (HRB) fellowships scheme
  • I couldn’t have done it without a strong support from my co-authors and the Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol review group (CDAG)

So, what impact had this year’s Cochrane in Ireland conference on me? It helped me to regain my research identity again.
…and the sky in Belfast was grey, yet again.
A copy of my cochrane review can be accessed here: