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Profile of Petros Pechlivanoglou

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Dr. Petros Pechlivanoglou

By: Brianna Bendici

Dr. Petros Pechlivanoglou, PhD

  • Scientist, Child Health Evaluative Sciences

1. Where are you from?/Where did you study?
I am originally from Athens, Greece and I studied Economics in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in the country. Then I moved to the Netherlands where I got my master’s degree in econometrics, a discipline combining mathematics and economics. After my masters, I decided to move even further away from "pure" economics and did my PhD in health econometrics which combines health with statistics and applied economics.         

2. What are you researching right now?
Right now, I am working on methods for the extrapolation of health and cost outcomes from short-duration clinical trials to the lifetime of a patient. There are some clinical trials that may run for two or three years, which is very common in paediatrics.  We then estimate how the results of the clinical trial will affect the patients in the long run. We are interested in how to do this for both costs and effects and how we can combine clinical trials with administrative databases, patient registries, life-tables and other sources of evidence to get better estimates of the intervention of the trials.

3. Who is your all-time favourite scientist and why?
My favourite scientist is David Spiegelhalter. He is a statistician at the University of Cambridge, UK. He has made important contributions in Bayesian statistics and especially their integration in healthcare, contributions that earned him a spot in the Order of British Empire (OBE). He was a pioneer in this field because he led the development of the WinBUGS software, which is very important to Bayesian statisticians. He holds a professor position with a mandate for public understanding of risk and uses this to disseminate the notion of risk to the public in clever ways. He is quite amazing because he is able to convey this rather complex notion to the general public in intuitive and fun ways. That is hard to do, especially with statistics! He is a very approachable scientist and I actually got the pleasure of meeting him early in my career while I was working on my PhD which was a very career-motivating experience. A funny fact about him as well is that he is the only person I know of who is both an OBE and has appeared on the TV show “Wipeout” (where he actually did quite well!)

4. What in your opinion is the most important scientific breakthrough and why?
I think that continued developments in human genetics is already, and most importantly, will continue to be, the most important scientific advancement, at least in the last hundred years. The work that comes as a result of genetics plays a large role in many different scientific fields such as statistics, computer science, ethics and more.

5. What are your major interests outside the lab?
I really enjoy playing music. I play traditional Greek music on a Greek instrument called the bouzouki. I enjoy participating in a lot of sports and also spending time with my wife and my friends. I also have a dog that is a white lab; so when I am outside of the lab I enjoy spending time with my lab!

6. Why science?
The direct answer would be that I always found the combination of learning new things, creating new knowledge and passing it along to others through teaching amazing! The prospect of being a scientist was like turning my favourite hobby into a job! However, I believe that the influence of your parents also plays a big role in the career that you pursue and it just so happens that both of my parents are scientists. I think this may have had an effect on my career choice; however, I was always personally driven by new knowledge and that is the main reason why I chose science.

7. Why SickKids?
The type of research that I am interested in applies a lot to individuals who are early in their lifetime, so paediatrics was a natural place for my career. In addition, I decided to work at SickKids because of its reputation as a great working environment. I had heard stories about what it is like but I can say that in my short time here I am already experiencing the solidarity and the kindness that SickKids offers! People at SickKids are always trying to improve the lives of children; there is a common goal here and you can see it in the hallways and corridors as you walk by everyone. This position is the dream of an applied scientist because you have your own space and time to do your work but at the same time you have great people around you to collaborate with. I heard stories about the environment at SickKids and now that I am experiencing it and it is just incredible!

8. What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
Currently it is very controversial to talk about how as a society we should spend our health funds in a ‘valuable’ way. It is difficult to decide what good value is, but at the same time the ministries of health in Canada still need to make decisions on how to allocate their funds across diseases and people.  There are so many pieces of new technology that continue emerging and advancing that are potentially lifesaving; however, they are very expensive. In addition, some patient groups require treatments that are way more expensive than other patient groups. So we have to approach this controversy by taking ethical calculations into account to estimate what is good value for our money which can be quite controversial.

9. What are you reading right now?
I am currently reading a book called “The New Industrial State” by John K. Galbraith. I am still at the beginning of the book but I am already surprised at how interesting it is! It was written in 1967,just before the financial crisis of the ‘70s, and takes an interesting approach to how capitalism was formed. He describes the society in this era and the economics of the time in a very distinct way as you can already see the effects marketing and corporate planning had on society and the decisions of the consumers when it came to wants vs needs. It is interesting to look back at this time in history that also resembles the 2000’s and especially 2003 and 2004.

Bill Bryson is also one of my favourite authors because he can write about nearly everything! He writes books that are so approachable even when discussing dense topics. In one of his books entitled, “A Short History of Nearly Everything” he writes in lay terms about topics like the creation of the galaxies, the formation of the earth, Darwinism and relativity theory. He is so amazing because you don’t get bored of reading his books.

10. If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a research career, what would it be?
You have to really, really want it! That is the key. If you are going to pursue a doctorate degree, you need a driving force that will help you push through because it is a huge investment that can have some negative aspects if you are not 100 per cent committed You also have to make sure you are pursuing topics you are passionate about. Only do it if you love it and do what you love most.

11. What does the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning mean to you?
For me, although the building itself is beautiful, it is the people inside that have meant the most to me so far. The attitude and atmosphere of everyone I meet and interact with is always so positive and this makes a big difference on my work environment. Sometimes I have a problem convincing myself to go home! There is honestly an added boost to your productivity simply by working in this building and experiencing the community of the PGCRL.

May 2016

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