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Building PV interest unknowingly

My interest in pharmacovigilance started in 2008 while I was at the University for Development Studies, Ghana, studying for a bachelor’s degree in applied biology. I was not familiar with the term “pharmacovigilance” even though I took keen interest in the safety of medication; I majored in Microbiology with a focus on safety and microbial load related to herbal medicines in northern Ghana.

After briefly working for a medical laboratory, my interest for wet bench laboratory investigations declined but my passion for medication safety lingered. Looking for ways to keep the spark going I decided to further my studies in a subject area that would keep me out of the laboratory. I applied for the University of Ghana’s Master of Science in Clinical Trials program and it was during this time I met renowned experts in the field of pharmacovigilance including Professor Alex Dodoo (former International Society for Pharmacovigilance [ISOP] president) and Dr Sarah Daniels (Transcript Partners). These experts were very supportive and aroused my interest further on the subject. I proposed a topic on adverse drug reactions (ADRs) for my master’s dissertation but was disappointed to note that the data was not sufficient to support my proposed topic for further research. Notwithstanding, I pursued a related medication safety topic - sex difference in the efficacy of monotherapy versus combination antimalarial therapy on paediatric haemoglobin.

After my master’s study I was still curious and started questioning various other pharmacovigilance issues, such as the lack of available data, the apparent precarious ADR reporting behaviour of healthcare professionals, and whether/how this reporting behaviour could be improved, especially in Ghana. This led me to developing a PhD proposal on these issues.


Admission and funding

Getting funding for the project was a major hurdle. Most funding organisations, including the Commonwealth Scholarship and GETFund, required a proof of admission. I therefore contacted potential supervisors in several schools around the world to register my interest in a PhD program.

I was pleased to have the supervisors at the University of Sheffield respond positively to my request with some suggestions and feedback to improve my research proposal. A major change was the inclusion of qualitative methods, ultimately using a mixed methods approach.  I was a bit sceptical about this change because I was coming from a purely quantitative background, but I eventually adopted it. I was then able to secure both an admission and funding to study at the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research. I have benefited from several training opportunities during my PhD study so far. I am glad I chose mixed methods for my study as it has given me a multi-level perspective to my research on ADR reporting among healthcare professionals.


Professional development

During my studies, I decided to improve my professional development by joining organisations focused on pharmacovigilance and medication safety research.

I initially joined the International Society for Pharmacoepidemiology (ISPE) and ISOP. Also, through conferences and networking I got introduced to The Global Health Network, the Pharmaceutical Information and Pharmacovigilance Association (PIPA), the Clinical Human Factor Group (CHUFG) and the Pharmaceutical and Human Factor Group (PharmHUFG). In fact, my involvement with these organisations has been remarkable. It has definitely increased my understanding of the role of the industry in medication safety. Furthermore, I have broadened my network and presented my work to experts and colleagues across different intuitions and geographical boundaries. I have also been actively involved in the review of abstracts, assisting in project management, and supporting Special Interest Groups within these organisations. All these have contributed invaluably to my experience and professional development.

  • dramyasri1990 Ramya Sri Doddi 9 May 2020

    Hi Walter,

    You were like a ray of hope for me. Even I would like to pursue a research program in the field of pharmacovigilance, but quite undirectional at the moment. I would like to discuss more in detail about the approach and the right way to start off with this.

    It would be great if you could help me to find a way to start with my journey to Ph.D.

    Kind Regards,

  • Hi Ernest, would you like to write a few lines about your own experience of falling into PV to add to this page of featuring network participants?! Please do email on to discuss

  • dedzidzornu Ernest Dela Dzidzornu 18 Apr 2019

    Hi, Walter, I'm Ernest.
    That's a great write up. I really like how you persisted until your curiosity was satisfied.
    I kind of 'fell' into pharmacovigilance two years loved it and want to do more.
    All the best in your endeavors.