Dr. Mark Ebell joins a growing number of faculty at the University of Georgia to be named a Fulbright scholar. In 2017, the university was named a top producer of Fulbright scholars and has contributed 35 faculty scholars to the program since 2011.
A family physician by training, Dr. Ebell studies clinical decision-making at University of Georgia College of Public Health, most recently developing clinical decision rules for influenza and bacterial sinus infections. He also recently received a $2.4 million federal grant to study acute respiratory infections in the primary care setting.
As a Fulbright scholar, he will expand his research into testing the accuracy of existing clinical decision rules with colleagues in Dublin at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) beginning in February 2019.
Clinical decision rules are tools designed to help physicians make decisions about a patient’s diagnosis or treatment, incorporating information from the patient history, the physical exam and basic lab tests. These rules then guide the next steps in patient care.
“It’s recommended that physicians use tools like this to make their diagnosis more accurate and to reduce inappropriate ordering of tests that maybe aren’t needed,” said Dr. Ebell.
(Photo: Dr. Mark Ebell)
These rules are derived from individual research studies, and as studies accumulate, it strengthens the accuracy of the rule. Dr. Ebell is interested in how to combine multiple studies into a meta-analysis. It’s a statistical challenge.
“Many of these rules classify patients as being low, moderate or high risk for, and the meta-analysis methods only work when you have two categories,” he explained, “so people end up collapsing the categories, and when you do that you lose information.”
Dr. Ebell and RCSI colleague Dr. Tom Fahey have adapted some statistical methods to create a way of combining tests when there are more than two categories, and they plan to apply their methodology to various clinical decision rules for cancer screening and early diagnosis of cancer.
“Tom Fahey and I, particularly in the world of general practice, share an interest in the meta-analysis of clinical decision rules, as well as an interest the study of respiratory infections and cancer screening” said Dr. Ebell. “I’m looking forward to being there and working with his team,” he said.
Students at RCSI will benefit from Dr. Ebell’s expertise as well. In addition to research, he will also be designing learning modules around evidence-based medicine and cancer screening.