Student Spotlight: Helping more children survive cancer
Ranin Soliman works in paediatric cancer research in Egypt, and is currently doing a DPhil in Evidence-Based Health Care. We asked her about her work, what brought her to Oxford, and what motivates her.
Please tell us about your background – where were you working before embarking on the DPhil at Oxford?
Before starting my DPhil, I was (and still am) working at the Children’s Cancer Hospital in Egypt (CCHE). After my graduation from the Faculty of Pharmacy – Cairo University, I joined CCHE in 2010 as a clinical researcher, where I was interested in studying the health outcomes of children with cancer. I wanted to find ways to improve their survival outcomes.
In 2017 I established the Health Economics and Value Unit at the hospital, to promote value-based healthcare for children with cancer. Over the last six years, I have worked on generating evidence to improve childhood cancer health outcomes and resource use in Egypt, which is the main focus of my DPhil research work and also an important component of my work in Health Economics at the hospital.
Why did you decide to study at Oxford?
I first came to Oxford in January 2017 to attend the Hellish Decisions in Healthcare Conference organised by Professor Sir Muir Gray, hosted by the Value Based Healthcare Programme within Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. It was my privilege to get introduced to Professor Sir Muir Gray and Dr Anant Jani and learn about value-based healthcare from them. While I was there in Oxford, I learnt about the DPhil programme in Evidence-Based Health Care and I became very excited to join it. I was accepted in June 2017, and came back to Oxford in October 2017 for the matriculation.
Since my first visit to Oxford, I have had the impression that I have stepped in some sort of a fairy tale; a vibrant city bursting with a passion for knowledge, eagerness to learn, and a scent of authenticity. My love for Oxford made me excited to pursue my DPhil in EBHC with the Centre of Evidence-based Medicine (CEBM), one of the world’s leading centres in evidence-based medicine/healthcare worldwide.
Can you give us a brief summary of your research for non-scientists?
My DPhil research is about generating evidence to improve childhood cancer health outcomes and resource use in Egypt. My research work involves three main parts: first, using local data to generate real-world evidence about the survival outcomes, resource use and associated costs. Based on these findings I made evidence-based recommendations to improve survival rates and promote cost-effectiveness of treatment.
The second part of my DPhil focuses on systematic review of the literature to generate high-quality evidence about a key priority area from local context – finding cost-effective treatment strategies for children with relapsed acute leukaemia.
Third, in the last part of my DPhil, I conducted interviews with doctors working in my hospital in Egypt, to explore and understand their perceptions about implementing cost-effective treatment for children with cancer based on evidence. I asked them about potential barriers and facilitators, and their suggestions to translate knowledge into practice.
Why did you decide to focus on this area?
I have always been interested in cancer research, and after working at CCHE and witnessing the suffering of children with cancer, it became my passion to work in childhood cancer research. It would mean a lot to me if I can conduct research that would help improve their health outcomes and prolong their survival, while maximizing the use of the available resources and effectively managing costs to meet Egypt’s resource-limited capacities.
I would do anything to help improve their survival outcomes and promote value in care delivery. My dedication to help children with cancer and serve the community stems from my school years. At Ramses College for Girls (RCG), they taught us to develop a sense of commitment to help make our communities a better place. RCG’s motto was “Enter ye to learn. Leave ye to serve”, which has greatly shaped my personality.
What are you hoping to do on completion of your doctorate?
After completing my DPhil, I hope to spread the knowledge and skills I gained in Evidence-based health care across Egypt, emphasising the use of real-world evidence, systematic evidence from literature, generating qualitative evidence, critical appraisal and assessing quality of evidence, and knowledge translation into practice. I also hope I can generate high-quality evidence about key health priority areas in Egypt, in order to make evidence-based policymaking to inform clinical practice.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people might know.
Another thing about me that not many people know is that I enjoy writing poetry as a hobby. I wrote a poem about Evidence-based Healthcare, called “And then evidence resonates”, that was published as a blog on the website of the Center for Evidence-based Medicine. You can read it here.
What advice do you have for someone thinking about applying to Oxford?
For those thinking about applying for a DPhil, I would strongly advise them to choose a research topic that they are truly passionate about and willing to dedicate years of their lives to. This is because studying for a research-based DPhil at Oxford demands a lot of hard work and effort. I will also tell them to enjoy their learning journey while it lasts. Studying at Oxford is once-in-a lifetime experience and they should make the most of it.
What is your impression/experience of Kellogg as your Oxford college?
For me, Kellogg is the place where I can hang out anytime I come to Oxford to have a nice cup of coffee at The Hub Café or to study in the library.
I was truly impressed by the diversity and the global perspective; it feels as if the whole world has come to Oxford to meet in Kellogg College. The dinner events at Kellogg College are out of this world, and I have had an exceptional experience dining with my mentor and supervisor Professor Carl Heneghan, who is a Kellogg Fellow. I will always be looking forward to returning back as a proud alumna or a life-long learner, after I complete my DPhil.
This article also appears in the 2023 issue of Connect magazine.