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David Sackett, Evidence-Based Medicine and EBMLive

Carl HeneghanDavid Sackett, Evidence-Based Medicine and EBMLive
Carl Heneghan, Director of CEBM

In July 1994 David Sackett moved from Canada to Oxford to become the inaugural Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, and Consultant Physician at the John Radcliffe Hospital. In 1995 the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine was launched to support the teaching and practice of evidence-based health care throughout the UK and Europe (a copy of the centre’s original prospectus is here).

One original aims, still relevant, was to perform developmental research into the generation and evaluation of clinically- useful measures of the “economics” of diagnosis and therapy.  By economic I consider we mean resisting the problems of too much medicine, and overdiagnosis, that pervades much of modern medicine.

Dave was a significant collaborator, right at the outset, the Oxford mission included collaborating with other individuals and groups to develop the human resources and career structures that will be required to achieve the critical mass of applied health research necessary for bringing evidence-based health care to patients and the public. Something that we are continuing through the EBMLive program, this year in Toronto, Canada.

In 1995 the EBM journal was launched, and it quickly became a huge success. As BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine it continues to grow and is the home for the Journal supplement for EBMLive.

In those early years, Professor Sharon Strauss (giving the David L. Sackett Lecture on Wednesday, July 8) visited the centre on a 3-year fellowship and participated fully in ward rounds, research and writing many seminal articles on EBM.

Dave’s articles on mentoring are incredibly useful, and his role fostered future leaders in EBM. The 2020 David L. Sackett Fellowships, build on this and provide awardees with EBMLive delegate registration, funding towards travel and accommodation, and the opportunity to present at EBMLive 2020 in a dedicated session. Future academics should read David’s articles on becoming a successful clinician investigator: “To become a professor of medicine or surgery now, you have to be young, impossibly specialised & to the point of non-functionality in any clinical reality zone, and skilled either in the treatment of rats and cats or in plagiarising other people’s research through meta-analysis.”

Finally, if you’re interested in teaching evidence-based practice then see this original clip of Dave: a Pre-Clinical Course in Biostatistics teaching session for medical students in 1994.

“I don’t believe that academics ever outgrow their need for mentoring. As you become an established investigator, you’ll require gentle confrontation about whether you are becoming a recognised “expert” and taking on the bad habits that inevitably accompany that state.”

David Lawrence Sackett, (November 17, 1934 – May 13, 2015)
Director, Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, 1995-2000

2017 Highlights