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EASD Robert Turner Cinical Research Course 2016 - Report

The Robert Turner Course 2016: gearing up next generation clinical diabetes scientists

Introduction

Every year since 2004, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) has organized a clinical research course in the memory of Professor Robert C. Turner. This legendary clinical scientist designed the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) and one can hardly call it coincidence that his initials, RCT, can easily be mistaken for Randomized Controlled Trial. He was the founder of a school of outstanding clinical researchers in diabetes back in the 70s, today’s Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism (OCDEM). Together with OCDEM, the EASD is committed to promoting excellence in clinical diabetes research. On its 12th edition, the Robert Turner Course aimed at sharing the knowledge and experience of this highly renowned clinical research unit with a group of young diabetes clinicians with different cultural backgrounds.

Material and Methods

Between the 10th and 15th April 2016, 17 medical doctors from around Europe as well other countries such as Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan or Peru met in historical city of Oxford. Accommodation was provided at Corpus Christi college under the caring supervision of Mrs. Mary Hata.

The course was headed by Prof. Matthews with the invaluable assistance of Dr. Clark and Dr. Levy, as well as many other qualified members of the staff of the OCDEM. The group was subjected to an intensive, round-the-clock educational program: applied statistical concepts, critical review of literature, presentation skills, physiological experiments, discussion on the clinicians’ role in research, etc. Several pedagogical methods were used, among others group work, interactive practical workshops, quizzes and debates. The group members where officially certified in good clinical practice, getting them ready to work in clinical trials.

The course covered different areas of clinical diabetes research such as study design, data storage, applying for research grants, clinical genetics and ethics. The central part of the course was dedicated to rehearsing a clinical trial from scratch. Throughout a day of fasting, intravenous lines placing, intense biking and stair climbing in the Clinical Research Unit, the subjects - randomised into four teams - were requested to generate a research hypothesis, write a protocol, perform an experiment, analyse the data, write an abstract and present the results in the EASD conference format. A special lecture was given by Prof. Hannele Yki-Järvinen from Helsinki and the group had the opportunity to tour around the OCDEM facility.

All these powerful educational experiences were reinforced by unforgettable recreational moments: the international evening in the junior common room, a dinner in a typical English pub (the King’s Arms), and a courtly dinner in the college dining room where we were honoured by the presence of Dr. Jennie Turner, widow of the late esteemed Prof. Robert Turner, and several members of the OCDEM teaching staff.

Results

Participants of the Robert Turner Course all clearly increased glucose disposal after one session on numbers, which was mainly driven by increased cerebral activity. The magnitude of this effect continued during the week and was so impressive that sweet delicacies had to be administered to prevent hypoglycaemic events. Surprisingly, estimation skills improved by 300% from baseline after 1 day of training (p<0.001). Also, overall knowledge of clinical diabetes trials, critical appraisal of scientific literature, setting up experiments, presentation skills and ethics all improved significantly (p<0.001). A clear correlation was found between these improvements and the intercultural exchanges (r=0.96, p<0.001). A qualitative analysis showed that every participant left with a major motivational boost to continue or commence high-quality diabetes research.

Discussion

These findings together support the hypothesis that a uniform proper educational intervention, such us the the Robert Turner Course, is very effective to enhance the skills and scientific level and of a young group of promising diabetes researchers with different cultural background. It provided the participants with relevant experience and knowledge and, consequently, improved their qualification in the field of clinical diabetes research. The strengths of this unique course include the wide range of relevant topics, proactive teaching methods by highly esteemed scientists, and particularly the unique practical section. The main finding of the study is that during the 2016 Robert Turner Course, all participants, in each randomized group, were highly, significantly and similarly trained and educated, thus gained further important knowledge on relevant theoretical and practical aspects of clinical research.

Conclusion

This experiment clearly showed the added value of the Robert Turner Course. The findings are in agreement with those of previous editions of the Robert Turner Course carried out in the last 12 years. We thoroughly recommend the Robert Turner Clinical Research Course to any EASD member willing to become a clinical diabetes researcher.