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Meet the new Head of Education and Training at the DSRU

For more than 20 years, Dr Alison Evans has been conducting complex and vigorous studies into the safety of vaccines and drugs used in healthcare today. She has now swapped her research role to lead the Drug Safety Research Unit’s (DSRU) Education and Training department to ensure colleagues and peers across pharmacovigilance have access to the most up to date and impactful training. Here, she explains why she has taken on the new role and why you should never stand still in pharmacovigilance.

Why have you taken on the role of Head of Education and Training at the DSRU? 

The pharmacovigilance landscape is ever changing and so it is really important to the DSRU that our courses are designed and delivered by people who are active in the field and know the topics which need to be covered. I can bring my knowledge and expertise, alongside my colleagues’ and our external speakers’ vast experience, and we can deliver a programme that is always relevant and up-to-date. From a personal point of view, being an academic, I am always keen to learn new things and so the opportunity to lead the education and training at such a renowned unit was too good an opportunity to pass up. I’m excited to get started in maintaining and enhancing the DSRU’s established reputation for academic excellence and where I can, provide valuable learning opportunities to other aspiring ‘Pharmacovigilantes’. 

What experience are you bringing to your new role?

I joined the DSRU in 2012 but before that I studied Toxicology and Pharmacology at the London School of Pharmacy and then completed a PhD in genetics from St George’s Hospital. I worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at University College London studying the genetic aspects of hereditary heart disease.

I then returned to the study of the adverse effects of drugs as the Study Manager for the Post Authorisation Safety Studies on the anticoagulant, rivaroxaban, (ROSE and ROSE ACS) at the DSRU. Since then, I have led a number of Pharmacovigilance studies as a Study Manager and Senior Research Fellow including our post-authorisation active surveillance study on the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

What types of training does the DSRU provide?

Our courses cover the latest development from the fields of pharmacovigilance, pharmacoepidemiology and risk management, whether they’re short courses, or our formal postgraduate training programme, which leads to a Masters, postgraduate diploma or certificate in Pharmacovigilance, accredited by the University of Portsmouth.

The courses are delivered by a range of speakers who are leading pharmacovigilance and pharmacoepidemiology experts from pharmaceutical companies, regulatory agencies,  academia and the DSRU.  For example, the Medical Aspects of Adverse Drug Reactions course is the only comprehensive course on the subject in the world; and our Periodic Safety Reports – PSURs/PBRERs and relationship to DSURs course, is led and delivered by the highly experienced Dr Kristina Strutt, alongside speakers who use their expertise to equip delegates with the practical skills to write periodic reports.

We pride ourselves on delivering courses for anyone, of all levels, from beginners to experienced professionals, so we have training opportunities to suit people who are new to the field and those seeking to refresh their knowledge. Our training is flexible, and our postgraduate programme is designed to fit around people’s job with just two days of timetabled teaching at a time. Alongside the courses, we also host pharmacovigilance conferences, including our Biennial Signal Detection Conference, which has built up a loyal following over the years. 

How important is education and training to PV? 

Pharmacovigilance is a rapidly evolving field, which is highly regulated and has high stakes. Giving people the opportunity to have regular training opportunities is vastly important to ensure the work being done in the field is up-to-date and of the highest quality. 

Our courses are continuously updated with the latest changes and developments to regulations, requirements, tools and strategies, empowering delegates to make decisions in their own working environments. 

What direction do you hope to take the DSRU’s training in over the next few months and years?

The DSRU has already established an international reputation for providing high quality education programmes. We want to enhance that position as the leading provider of pharmacovigilance training courses in Europe. We plan to hold more meetings and conferences and develop new training opportunities, as well as enhancing our current courses and meetings. We are also developing a distance learning route for our postgraduate programme.

Why are you setting up a new distance learning programme?

In today’s world, flexibility is key. We want to make our postgraduate programme even more accessible by developing a modern communications method for teaching. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work and there is certainly more demand for online opportunities now. We hope to set up an online teaching environment which will allow us to deliver these courses to students from both inside and outside the UK in an interactive way and provide a forum for students to easily communicate with speakers, academic staff and each other.

For more details about the DSRU education and training programme, visit https://www.dsru.org/education-training/our-courses/