Health RAB- a commendable effort by PharmEvo will help promote Research Culture and the art of Scientific Publishing in Pakistan

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Health RAB- a commendable effort by PharmEvo
will help promote Research Culture and the art
of Scientific Publishing in Pakistan 

By Shaukat Ali Jawaid

KARACHI: Health Research Advisory Board (Health RAB) is an entity established by PharmEvo, one of the progressive national pharmaceutical companies which is known for its ethical marketing practices. Its main objective is promotion of research culture, professional capacity building of the healthcare professionals thereby promoting the art of scientific publishing in Pakistan.

Ever since its inception a few years ago, Health RAB has organized international research conference, sponsored “Online Research Course” organized workshops on Research Methodology and Medical Writing in collaboration with The Medical Writers in various medical institutions all over the country particularly targeting the young researchers. Prof. A. G. Billoo, an eminent paediatrician of the country is the Chairman of Health RAB while a distinguished researcher and Executive Director of Baqai Institute of Diabetes and Endocrinology is the Vice Chairperson. The core group of Health RAB consists of eminent medical personalities who are busy clinicians in different disciplines of medicine.

In the first phase, Health RAB has tried to attract like minded healthcare professionals who are interested in research and then chapters have been formed at Lahore and Rawalpindi-Islamabad as well. In the second phase those who are interested in establishing research cells at various medical institutions are being identified and they will be provided assistance and guidance to establish and strengthen these research cells.

Health RAB collaborated with the Pakistan Association of Medical Editors (PAME) in organizing their Second National Conference held at University of Health Sciences Lahore on April 26-27th 2014. Health RAB was one of the collaborating organizations in this conference along with University of Health Sciences Lahore and Eastern Mediterranean Associaton of Medical Editors (EMAME). This provided it a unique opportunity to get introduced with the medical editors and research scientists, medical writers and distinguished faculty members from all over the country which went a long way in further enhancing its credibility as an organization which is not only interested but was actually promoting research and the art of scientific publishing in Pakistan. A CD containing Clinical Research Guidelines prepared by Health RAB was also distributed among the conference participants. In the past too, PharmEvo has extended its help and assistance to Pakistan Associaton of Medical Editors in organizing various workshops on Medical Writing and even training the faculty members in Peer Review. It was the major sponsor of EMMJ5 Medical Journals Conference organized by PAME at College of Physicians & Surgeons Pakistan in December 2010.

In collaboration with The Medical Writers, Health RAB has so far organized eight workshops on Research Methodology and Medical Writing in the following medical institutions all over the country where Dr. Masood Jawaid Chief Executive of The Medical Writers and Assistant Prof. of Surgery at Dow International Medical College was the facilitator.

1. Neurology Ward, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Institute, Karachi.
2. Tabba Heart Institute, Karachi.
3. Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology, Rawalpindi.
4. Fuji Foundation Medical College, Rawalpindi.
5. Jinnah Hospital, Lahore.
6. Neurology Department of Abbasi Shaheed Hospital Karachi.
7. Combined Military Hospital, Multan.
8. Ibne Sena Hospital affiliated with Multan Medical and Dental College, Multan.

Participants at some of these workshops were seen very keen and enthusiastic and actively participated in the discussion. The attendance in the workshops was very good at those institutions where the senior faculty members and higher administration was actively involved.

Online Research Course: Health RAB also sponsored thirty seven healthcare professionals in the Online Research Course run by The Medical Writers. However, selection of the participants by Health RAB needs to be improved so that only those who are interested are sponsored ensuring judicious use of resources.

It was with this objective of promoting research culture and helping those interested that Prof. A. Basit recently conducted a workshop at Lahore which was attended by about a dozen young faculty members from various medical institutions of Lahore. Addressing the participants Prof. Basit gave practical examples on how to share research facilities in a resource constraint environment. Appointment of a Research Officer followed by development of relevant software at BIDE, he said, helped us to undertake some basic research. Data entry operator was appointed; we also acquired the services of a statistician and started working on basic clinical studies. We had a few publications and then we started working on advanced clinical studies which also resulted in many studies published in national and international peer reviewed biomedical journals.

In the next step we started collaborating with other institutions and got involved in multicenter studies including prospective and interventional studies. Having made some success here and number of publications, we then moved to multinational studies. Quality of our work helped us get some national and international funding for these research projects and we were also able to hire a research team supervised by the research department. He then referred to some of the projects they had completed and were working on like Diabetic Foot and childhood obesity. Improving diabetic foot care in the country by establishing a chain of Diabetic Foot Clinics helped reduce the amputation rate significantly. We are now involved with the primary prevention programme of diabetes in the country besides doing Genetic studies in collaboration with eight countries which includes UK, Norway, Spain, Germany, Finland, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh at seventeen centers.

Continuing Prof. Basit said that we hold weekly Research meeting at BIDE and the Research Department is fully independent for generating its own funding. Everything always has a humble start, hence those interested in establishing these research cells, Prof. Basit said, should first appoint a doctor in charge of Research, appoint data entry operator, acquire services of statistician may be part time in the beginning, develop software for database. He laid emphasis that always start low, go slow which ensures success. Lot of funding is available nationally and internationally but one needs to have good research projects, properly prepared research protocols and consistency in work. Have some time dedicated for research and do not feel shy in taking guidance and advice from others. Always give credit to those who help and assist you in these research activities, he added.

PharmEvo, it may be mentioned here has always come up with innovative ways of helping the society at large and professional capacity building of healthcare professionals which is in line with its mission of ensuring a healthier society. Establishment of Health RAB was one such initiative. However, its progress remains a bit slow simply because the core group of eminent medical personalities are very busy clinicians. They have little time. They can give guidelines but not many of them will be themselves actively involved in research work. Hence, if some active research workers drawn from young faculty members who are not only actively involved in research work but have also published a few papers in the peer reviewed national and international journals during the last two three years will help Health RAB achieve its objectives much better. Health RAB does need the patronage and blessings of various institution heads where the research work is being conducted and so is the case with eminent medical personalities from different disciplines of medicine whose guidance could be very helpful but involvement of active researchers drawn from Assistant and Associate Professors level from various medical institutions will be rewarding. They can also be asked to come up with suggestions on topics for research which is relevant to the disease pattern in Pakistan. Helping the postgraduates to complete their research projects which they are supposed to do as a mandatory requirement for completing their training and sitting in the examination, providing them financial assistance to pay for the publication charges etc., should also be looked into. These small gestures can earn Health RAB lot of good will among the young generation of healthcare professionals. Not only that, since it wont involve lot of funding, it will also ensure cost effective utilization of funds made available by PharmEvo instead of wasting them in holding large scale conferences in Five Star Hotels. In addition, while keeping Prof. A. G. Billoo as a Patron, it must rotate the leadership by holding regular elections so that the responsibilities are shared by all the core group members and each one is given an opportunity to contribute to further the aims and objectives of Health RAB. Every one has some potential and given chance, they all can make a useful contribution in promoting the research culture and the art of medical writing, scientific publishing for which the credit of course will go to Health RAB and PharmEvo. Efforts should also be made to identify and find a young, energetic healthcare professional who is interested in research and publications who can work as a co-coordinator for this group to ensure that the work Health RAB is doing is also properly projected, this is something where the Health RAB has performed very poorly so far.