SPARK’s 4th anniversary: The AUB Evidence Network is impacting the systematic reviews world.

​The Center for Systematic Reviews on Health Policy and Systems Research (SPARK) celebrated its fourth anniversary during a ceremonial event attended by researchers and faculty members from and outside the American University of Beirut (AUB).  SPARK, a joint collaboration between the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) and the Faculty of Medicine (FM) at AUB, is the first center of its kind in Lebanon and the region to produce high quality systematic reviews and other evidence synthesis products that respond to health policy and systems priorities at the national and regional level.

Dr. Fadi El-Jardali, the Co-Director of SPARK highlighted the center’s achievements over the past 4 years. Dr. El-Jardali, focused on the importance of the impact this center has made on the decision-making process by collaborating with other centers at AUB (such as Knowledge to Policy (K2P) Center) to ensure the effectiveness of the Knowledge Translation process. The Co-director highlighted as well, the interdisciplinary research to strengthen health systems and policy, especially that the era of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) rendered cross-sector collaboration and partnerships as central to achieving these goals, which led eventually to the establishment of Global Evidence Synthesis Initiative (GESI).  On this level, Dr. El-Jardali showed that SPARK Center was competitively selected to host the Secretariat of GESI. 

In his speech for the ceremony, Dr. Elie Akl, Co-Director of SPARK,  focused on the AUB Evidence Network, which in addition to SPARK, includes the Clinical Research Institute (CRI), the Knowledge to Policy (K2P) Center, AUB Grade Center and the Global Evidence Synthesis Initiative (GESI). “This loose network works together and builds capacities with the collaborative efforts of each center”. said Dr. Akl.  His speech did not exclude surprises, Dr. Elie Akl and Dr. Fadi El-Jardali, praised the efforts showed by the center’s staff, Mrs. Lama Bou Karroum and Ms. Racha Fadlallah (FHS Alumni) who were honored by the Center’s directors. “The thank you words are not enough to appreciate the leadership of Lama and Racha, they have set the bar really high, and are an example for the young emerging leaders who are contributing to the knowledge and systematic reviews world”, agreed both directors. Dr. Akl spoke about the fertile ground the AUB that made this center grow. 

FHS Dean Iman Nuwayhid congratulated all contributors to the SPARK Center for achieving a lot in such a short period. He added, “what SPARK and systematic reviews are doing is not to ensure that we’re making the right choice, it is actually to reduce the possibility of making the wrong ones in the public health sector”. Dean Nuwayhid, highlighted the fact that SPARK Center is changing the way of thinking regarding systematic reviews and the use of this information, which is considered the biggest impact.  Dr. Kamal Badr, the Associate Dean for Medical Education at the Faculty of Medicine, agreed with Dean Nuwayhid and stressed on the remarkable success this collaboration with the FHS achieved. 

SPARK fourth anniversary was the occasion that brought the pioneer in the fields of evidence synthesis and knowledge translation from the University of Ottawa, Dr. Jeremy Grimshaw to acknowledge the center’s achievements. During his presentation and speech, Dr. Grimshaw explained how systematic reviews are one of the most powerful tools in informing health-related policies and decisions while admitting that throughout the last years, a major forward leap was achieved in terms of systematic reviews and improving the synthesis of research. He added, “Systematic reviews of research evidence can reduce the likelihood that knowledge users will be misled by research, in addition to increasing confidence among those knowledge users about what can be expected from an intervention.”

The ceremony ended with confidence that the efforts showed by SPARK Center, and its collaborating centers at FHS and FM at AUB, will be able to make a change in the public health sector.