Cochrane's 30 under 30: Stephen Surace

Cochrane's 30 under 30: Stephen Surace

Cochrane is made up of 13,000 members and over 50,000 supporters come from more than 130 countries, worldwide. Our volunteers and contributors are researchers, health professionals, patients, carers, people passionate about improving health outcomes for everyone, everywhere.

Cochrane is an incredible community of people who all play their part in improving health and healthcare globally. We believe that by putting trusted evidence at the heart of health decisions we can achieve a world of improved health for all. 

Many of our contributors are young people working with Cochrane as researchers, citizen scientists, medical students, and volunteer language translators and we want to recognize the work of this generation of contributors as part of this series called, Cochrane’s “30 under 30." 

In this series, we will interview 30 young people, 30 years old or younger who are contributing to Cochrane activities in a range of ways, all promoting evidence-informed health decision making across the world. 

We will be hearing from them in a series of interviewees published over the coming months.

We're keen to hear from you. Would you like to take part in this series? Do you know someone you'd like to see interviewed? Contact  Or if you want to know more about Cochrane’s work contact where our community support team will be happy to answer your questions.

Name: Stephen Surace
Age: 27
Occupation: Doctor
Program: Cochrane Musculoskeletal

How did you first hear about Cochrane?
From very early on in medical school you start hearing the words “Cochrane review” used with a fair amount of reverence. If they aren’t appearing as a reference in a lecture note or your tutors aren’t talking about a new publication, they are used as the real-life example of the pinnacle of the evidence pyramid.

How did you become involved with Cochrane? What is your background?
I am a doctor, but I first became involved as a medical student. I was looking to use my epidemiology and research methods classes for a practical purpose, and after asking around my hospital I was given the name of someone to speak to who was involved in “some research”. I was just incredibly lucky that my rotations at the time brought me into contact with people who worked with Cochrane.

What do you do in Cochrane?
I have helped with data collection and synthesis on two published reviews and am a primary author on a third.

What specifically do you enjoy about working for Cochrane and what have you learnt?
Working with Cochrane has taught me an incredible amount about research. There are the obvious lessons, such as how to critically appraise trials, a better understanding of different biases and their consequences, and an appreciation of just how much work goes into each and every review. However, there were also unexpected lessons. Examining bias and trial method actually taught me a lot about how to construct trials and investigating evidence and data quality allowed me to realise how there are many ways not only to interpret, but also to present and modulate results. This has real and continuing implications for my work as a doctor, and my experience with Cochrane eventually lead me to undertaking a research degree in addition to my medical studies. Beyond the review, working with Cochrane is also a great opportunity to work with and learn from a group of experienced research mentors.

What are your future plans?
I’d love to keep working with Cochrane and keep working on reviews. I’d especially like to come back when I’m further through my training, so that I can provide analysis and commentary not just from the point of view of an enthusiastic researcher, but also from the view of a specialist in my field.

In your personal experience, what one thing could Cochrane do better to improve its global profile?
I think more people should know how they could get involved with Cochrane.  The first question from so many of my colleagues when I said I was helping to write a Cochrane review was to ask me how in the world I managed to arrange that.

What do you hope for Cochrane for the future?
I hope that they can find the time and expertise to expand their number of reviews. If I have to answer a question in medicine, I can always breathe a sigh of relief if there is a recent Cochrane review to guide me.

How important is it that young people get involved in Cochrane? Why is this, do you think?
There is no better time to get involved than right now. The earlier you start, the more opportunities you have to implement the skills you learn from working with Cochrane, whether they relate to research methods or the lessons you learn from your supervisors and mentors. As for the organisation, young people are always a source of new ideas and fresh perspectives, so it’s really a win-win situation.  

What would your message be to other young people who want to get involved with Cochrane’s work but not sure where to start….?
As I said, it’s never too early to get involved, but it’s also never too late. I thought for sure when I was looking around in medical school that I had left it too late to ever find any research to help out with. Yet it was really only just the beginning. Think of a field of interest, even if that is just a broad type of research you want to become familiar with and start looking up contact details. Google the relevant Cochrane group page, email the contact person, phone around. You can even try the old-fashioned way and knock on their office door like I did when I first started. The Cochrane people are happy to provide help and are also always looking for help. If you have the enthusiasm and drive to volunteer your time, then you have something invaluable to offer.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019