Sunday, November 3, 2019

Fall 2019 - Scholarship recipients

Contributed by Madelin Siedler, 2019/2020 U.S. GRADE Network Research Fellow

The Eleventh GRADE Guideline Development Workshop was held in Orlando, Florida, this past September. This workshop welcomed 52 participants, including several international attendees from Canada and Brazil. Among these participants were three recipients of a scholarship provided by the Evidence Foundation, which covers the cost of registration. Coming from diverse backgrounds ranging from organizational work to evidence synthesis to policymaking, scholars Faduma Gure, Eric Linskens, and Christian Kershaw presented their proposals for new innovations or opportunities for improving the application and implementation of evidence-based medicine.

Faduma Gure, MSc, a knowledge translation and research specialist for the Association of Ontario Midwives, discussed the challenges of incorporating client perspectives to midwifery guidelines for the organization, which utilizes the GRADE approach. Pregnancy through the post-partum period is often a tumultuous time filled with decision-making, Gure explained, and more can be done to better understand the values and preferences of midwifery clients and to employ an equity lens when formulating recommendations. Gure proposed a solution that includes the development of an equity advisory group consisting of key stakeholders representative of Ontario’s population of midwifery clients. The organization could then involve these stakeholders through the entire guideline development process - from the initial setting of research priorities to the ultimate formulation of recommendations - and elicit important feedback about patient values and preferences as well as the potential impacts of a guideline on various communities.

Eric Linskens, BSc, serves the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Evidence Synthesis Program and the Minnesota Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Evidence-based Practice Center. Linskens presented his current work applying the GRADE approach to existing systematic reviews which did not originally use GRADE. Linskens discussed some of the challenges that his team has faced as part of the initiative, as well as innovative solutions to these issues. For instance, a systematic review conducted by AHRQ may automatically rate down for inconsistency due simply to the inclusion of a sole study, whereas in the GRADE approach, this would not be the case. Additionally, an existing review may break down one clinical question into multiple smaller analyses of comparators or sub-populations, whereas it would be more clinically relevant to use these data to create one larger recommendation. To best solve these issues, Linskens noted, it is important to consider the end-user of any given review or guideline so that their needs can be best met. Additionally, transparently reporting all judgments around the analyses is key. Regarding his time at the workshop, Linskens said, “[i]t was very helpful to work through examples with the GRADE workshop facilitators in small group sessions. They answered our questions as they came up.”

Christian Kershaw, PhD, is a molecular neuroscientist who now works as a health policy analyst for CGS, a Medicare fee-for-service contractor. Dr. Kershaw used her personal experience transitioning from bench science to policymaking to inspire her presentation on the utility of cross-functional teams in medicine and healthcare policy. To develop a cross-functional team, Dr. Kershaw explained, it is best to identify a problem that would best be solved by a group of individuals with heterogeneous skills and backgrounds that would each uniquely serve a common goal or purpose. As an example, Kershaw discussed the development of a team to standardize the way information is used to form coverage decisions as part of the 21st Century Cures Act. The team is comprised of a medical doctor to understand the need for and content of the policies; an outreach and education specialist to understand their legal implications; and a basic research scientist to compile and assess the information. Leveraging individual team members’ strengths and encouraging innovation are keys to success when working in a cross-functional team. “I was impressed with the versatility of the GRADE framework,” Kershaw noted. “It was very informative to learn all of the different ways that the conference attendees were using GRADE to suit their projects.”

If interested in applying for a scholarship to future GRADE workshops, more details can be found here: Please note the deadline for applications to our next workshop in Phoenix, AZ will be December 4, 2019.