09 Jul Lina Al-Sakran
Dr. Lina Al-Sakran recently completed her PhD in Pharmacy from the University of Saskatchewan. She obtained her BSc in Pharmacy and her MSc in Clinical Pharmacy from Jordan. Prior to starting her PhD, she worked as a clinical preceptor and lecturer at the University of Jordan. During her studies at the University of Saskatchewan, Lina’s research focused on the epidemiology and pharmacoepidemiology of multiple sclerosis in Saskatchewan. She received several fellowship awards and was an endMS Summer School trainee with the Multiple Sclerosis Society. She began a post-doctoral fellowship with Dr. Colin Dormuth of the BC CNODES site in April 2020.
What excites me the most is how our research can be translated into patients’ lives.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up studying in this field.
After graduating from pharmacy school in 2005 from the Jordan University of Science and Technology, I pursued a master’s degree in clinical pharmacy from the University of Jordan, where I later worked as a clinical preceptor and lecturer for several years. It was during my time working at the University of Jordan that I had the opportunity to be part of the Jordanian Pediatric Epilepsy Project- a nation-wide project that was looking into the epidemiology and therapeutic management of epilepsy in children, and that’s when I realized how much I enjoyed research and decided to pursue a PhD. I was accepted into the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan and worked under the supervision of Dr. Charity Evans. I was lucky to have an amazing supervisor and graduate committee that guided me and helped me reach my full research potential.
Give us a short summary of your recent research.
My PhD research focused on the epidemiology and pharmacoepidemiology of multiple sclerosis (MS) in Saskatchewan. MS is a chronic progressive neurologic disease, and to date there is no cure. Saskatchewan was always considered to be a hotspot for MS but prior to my work, province-wide estimates were not available. I validated a case definition for MS using health administrative data and used that case definition to establish incidence and prevalence estimates, confirming that Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates of MS, nation- and world-wide.
The validation of a case definition for MS allowed for accurate identification of the provincial MS cohort, which I used to examine trends of healthcare utilization and evaluate health outcomes and their potential associations with comorbidities and disease-modifying therapies. My research findings have provided supporting evidence to understand risk factors associated with MS, can aid in future resource allocation, and guide collaborative efforts to better MS care.
What excites you the most about the research you are doing or hope to do in the future?
What excites me the most is how our research can be translated into patients’ lives. Last summer, I had the opportunity to meet people living with MS during the endMS Summer School, and to listen to their hopes and concerns. It’s amazing how much faith and gratitude they feel towards the research community and how much our research means to them. Individuals with MS have also approached me at conferences and thanked me for my research- nothing beats that!
Are there aspects of the work that you find particularly challenging?
I think one of my biggest challenges was transitioning from using clinical to administrative data. My background was in clinical pharmacy, and I didn’t know much about administrative data or SAS. I was always a people person and all of my contact had been with patients and other members of the healthcare team. But during my PhD studies, most of my time was spent working from a computer and I sometimes missed the direct contact with patients. I had to learn how to use administrative data for health research and become efficient in SAS. While it wasn’t easy, it was rewarding to see results after months of work. It’s quite exciting when you see those statistical results pop up on your screen, and you are finally getting answers to your research questions!
What are your career goals?
Because I enjoy teaching and have a passion for research, I’d like a career where I can do both, and I believe academia is the best place for that. I would also enjoy working as a research scientist. I hope to have a career where I can collaborate with other researchers, where not only can I develop my own research projects, but also learn from the experience of others. I want a position where I am constantly challenged and always learning.
You’ve only just started with CNODES; how has your experience been so far?
While I am fairly new to CNODES, I have been working on developing a part of a training module for new CNODES analysts. This is something I wish was available to me when I first started working with administrative data. I also met several CNODES analysts while I was a PhD student at the Health Quality Council data lab in Saskatchewan. They were always very helpful and shared with me their knowledge and experience in pharmacoepidemiology. CNODES has provided me with great training and networking opportunities. I also have the chance to learn from some of the best researchers in the field at a national and international level.
Outside of work and studies, what are you passionate about?
I love to travel and experience different cultures. I enjoy meeting people from all over the world and listening to everyone’s personal story or journey. I also enjoy cooking and creating new recipes. When I was younger, I was considering going to culinary school to become a chef and start my own catering business.
Selected recent publications:
Al-Sakran LH, Marrie RA, Blackburn DF, Knox KB, Evans CD. Predictors of hospitalization in a Canadian MS population: A matched cohort study. Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders. 2020 Feb 27:102028.
Al-Sakran LH, Marrie RA, Blackburn DF, Knox KB, Evans CD. Impact of comorbidity on hospitalizations in individuals newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis: a longitudinal population-based study, Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders. 2020 Jan 22:101955.
Al-Sakran L, Marrie RA, Blackburn D, Knox K, Evans C. Association between disease-modifying therapies for multiple sclerosis and healthcare utilisation on a population level: a retrospective cohort study. BMJ open. 2019 Nov 1;9(11).
Al-Sakran LH, Marrie RA, Blackburn DF, Knox KB, Evans CD. Establishing the incidence and prevalence of multiple sclerosis in Saskatchewan. Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences. 2018 May;45(3):295-303.