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A little bit about me:

My name is Max Schurer, I am a 26 year old blend of Dutch and Chilean, born and raised in South Africa. I am currently working on my PhD in Industrial Engineering at Stellenbosch University, about 30 minutes outside of Cape Town, South Africa. Prior to my Engineering studies I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. For most of my life I have been relentlessly curious and fascinated by the natural world, with a passion for the biological/life sciences. After examining the world through the microscope during my undergraduate studies, I realised that taking a step back and examining the bigger picture is another useful method of problem solving. This led to my postgraduate studies in Industrial Engineering and my interest in taking a systems approach to problem solving.

An Industrial Engineering PhD about pharmacovigilance?

To be completely honest, prior to the start of my Masters studies, I had never heard of the term “pharmacovigilance”.  After completing a quick literature review it became clear that PV is faced with many problems and challenges ranging from social and technical, to economic, and even political. It became clear to me that PV and its multifaceted problems, stands to benefit from a systems engineering approach.

I am a firm believer that by developing improved digital technologies and capabilities, we can alleviate many of the problems currently facing PV. With that in mind, my PhD research focuses on the interoperability of spontaneous reporting systems (SRSs) in PV, specifically guiding SRSs towards interoperability through the introduction of a capability maturity model which I developed. The model seeks to allow Marketing Authorisation Holders and Regulatory Authorities to benchmark their system capabilities against industry standards and best practices, as well as serving as an improvement guide by linking strategically linked continuous improvement processes. The model is called the Pharmacovigilance Reporting Capability Maturity Model (PVR-CMM) and is currently being subjected to validation and verification processes with the help of subject matter experts and industry professionals.

Supervision and funding:

I have supervision from three faculty members from the department of Industrial Engineering at Stellenbosch University. Our research group received a research grant from the multinational pharmaceutical company GSK, which enabled me to pursue my studies without having to deal with any financial constraints. I feel extremely privileged to have been given the opportunity to pursue my PhD in this field of research. I find it both motivating and deeply rewarding to know that my research might in some way improve some aspect of the global health system. I have also been fortunate enough to meet and collaborate with so many wonderful people from all over the world who are equally passionate about PV. It has been an eye-opening experience to have received feedback and involvement from experts scattered all around the world, it is so encouraging to tackle large problems such as these when people are willing to work together. I still have a lot of work to do, but I am confident that I will make my contribution and strive to do so to the best of my ability.

Research outputs and my career in PV:

Over the past 3 years I have been fortunate enough to present parts of my research on both national and international stages. In my first year I wrote a journal article for the Southern African Journal of Industrial Engineering (SAJIE), the article was an investigation into the value of a standardised global PV reporting system. Another research output was one which I presented at the annual conference for the International Association for the Management of Technology (IAMOT), in Birmingham, UK. The conference proceeding was titled “Sociotechnical Considerations for Health Information Technology Design and Implementation in Complex and Adaptive Health Systems”.

In May 2019 I will be attending the ISoP Mid-Year Training Course in Nairobi, Kenya. I am very much looking forward to this opportunity and can’t wait to engage with people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds to improve spontaneous reporting in Africa.

Upon completion of my PhD I hope to remain involved in PV in what ever capacity I can. I look forward to being a long-term member of ISoP and contributing to this cause long into the future.

If you have any questions relating to my research, I would be happy to chat about it further, I'm also happy to arrange a Skype call if you would be at all interested (Email me: