I attended the 49thTeaching Seminar of the International Society for Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention (ISCEP), which was held in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, from 5th-15th June, 2017. This event was hosted by the Jeffery Cheah Foundation, Sunway Medical Centre, Sunway University and the Jeffery Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Malaysia. ISCEP was founded in 1968 by Professors Jerry and Rose Stamler and Richard Remington from the United States of America (USA), and Professor Geoffrey Rose from the United Kingdom (UK), with support from the International Society and Federation of Cardiology (since 1998, World Heart Federation) Council on Epidemiology and Prevention. The objective of the seminar was to “increase the body of people around the world who have needed skills to carry out epidemiologic studies and to strengthen the efforts to prevent mass cardiovascular disease”.
There were forty-five (45) professionals from 27 countries across the globe who participated in the event ranging from cardiologists, general physicians, epidemiologists to medical officers, nutritionists, and social scientists. The seminar facilitators included renowned epidemiologists, biostatisticians and prevention researchers from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and India.
Different aspects of the seminar featured sessions on the fundamental epidemiologic principles and methods and biostatistics, with focus and practical examples on cardiovascular disease (CVD) epidemiology and prevention. This was done through the use of interactive learning techniques including lectures, small group discussions, and tutorial sessions. Further, we were divided into 4 groups of 11 participants each and each group was randomly assigned to use one of the four study designs (i.e. cross-sectional, case-control, cohort, and randomised control trial) to develop a proposal on the “association between palm oil consumption and prevalence of coronary heart disease”. I was assigned to the group which developed a proposal on this topic, using cross-sectional study design.
This was really interesting and challenging for me because I had to collaborate with ten (10) other professionals from different areas of expertise – this gave me the opportunity to take initiative personally and work in a team in order to achieve one common goal. Although there was plenty of work to be done during the entire duration of the event, the organisers made sure there was enough time to socialise and visit some of the tourist centres in Malaysia.
Personal and professional experience gained:
Firstly, my exposure to this seminar gave me the experience of working with and exchanging scientific knowledge with researchers from different disciplines and different cultural contexts. As a result, I was able to build friendship with researchers from different countries and in different professional expertise and presently, we are working on developing an interdisciplinary research on CVD prevention. We are currently working on carrying out a multi-national cross-sectional study on the association between palm oil consumption and prevalence of coronary heart disease (CHD).
Secondly, I gained practical insights on the interactions between diabetes treatment and incidence of stroke from the viewpoints of professors of preventive cardiovascular medicine and surgeons. This was really useful because one of my areas of interest, as part of the research team working on critical histories of chronic disease in Africa, is to look at how stroke interact with other chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These lectures gave me practicable ideas on how to approach this. In addition, I was able to learn from CVD research and prevention programmes in different countries/cultural contexts which I can draw on in my research.
Further, I learned fundamental epidemiologic principles, methods and biostatistics with focus and practical examples on cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention. As a researcher, with adequate training in quantitative techniques, one of the things I gained from this seminar is a critical way of interpreting statistical findings to avoid misguided conclusions/interpretations. I was previously trained to always look for significance of variables and not focus much on non-significant ones; however, in this seminar, being taught by renowned biostatisticians gave me insight on the need to critically explore statistical results before moving on to explaining ‘significance’. The facilitators also stressed the importance of juxtaposing statistical significance results with theoretical relevance, and this was really useful.