Nadim Anani, PhD at the Health Informatics Centre (HIC)

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Dr. Nadim Anani believes that he made it through the toughest periods of his doctoral studies thanks to what he ironically describes as “a self-confidence slightly stronger than it should be”. On 12 February he defended his thesis, Exploring openEHR-based clinical guidelines in acute stroke care and research.

Nadim Anani came to KI and LIME in 2009 after he, through his studies at Heidelberg University in Germany, came into contact with Professor Sabine Koch. She inspired him to write his master thesis in Sweden. The idea was to stay for six months. He is still here.

”When my master’s was done Sabine offered me to continue to work within the project I had written about. I thought it was really exiting, I thought LIME was really exciting and I liked Stockholm, so I stayed”, he says with a smile.

Nadim started to work as a research assistant on the ”Infobiotika” project in September 2009. His task was to create an information model based on information accessible through a number of data bases. The aim was to facilitate for the medical staff to make effective decisions concerning antibiotics prescription in intensive care. At the time the doctors had to search at least four different systems to gather enough information. Given the problem with increasing antibiotics resistance, Nadim thought it was an interesting project. Eventually his work led to an offer to apply for a doctoral education position and in May 2011 he was registered as a PhD student.

Nadim enjoyed the excitement of research and to go through something that he thought was so grand and out of reach when he was younger. Even though he found it a bit intimidating to have his own project for four years, the idea of working on his own and independently appealed to him. He wouldn’t describe himself as unsocial or avoiding team work, he just really like the idea of running his own project.

His thesis title is Exploring openEHR-based clinical guidelines in acute stroke care and research. He explains the shift from antibiotic resistance to acute stroke care with the fact that health informatics uses different clinical fields to test models. Also, at this time, a collaboration with Cambio Healthcare Systems, a company which creates electronic medical record systems in Sweden as well as globally, had just been initiated. Sabine Koch, now Nadim’s supervisor, introduced him to Rong Chen at Cambio who also became his supervisor. Additionally, Nadim had already touched upon the subject during his master’s studies where he had looked at how a certain standard within health informatics also could be used within the information model he now was developing, which was the openEHR-standard. Thus, the openEHR-focus for semantic interoperability was more or less set from the start.

The aim is to create solutions from a health informatics perspective. Interoperability through standardization, i.e. exchange of information between different systems and simultaneously simply understand and automatically be able to handle it rather than having to manually search to understand – that is what Nadim wants to contribute to.

”Surely many of us who have ever been a patient have experienced the lack of continuity in care, since there is no information exchange between hospitals, regardless of whether it’s between hospitals in different countries or within Sweden”, he explains.

Nadim is content and proud of what he has achieved. Many doctoral students want to have it all behind them, but not Nadim. He feels that he has enjoyed every second since he turned in his kappa the 11 January and he wouldn’t mind staying in this phase for a while. At the same time and with a little perspective, he realises what a stressful and hard time the PhD project has actually been. But to him the kappa was a though process, actually the toughest in the entire process.

Throughout his entire doctoral education Nadim has deliberately avoided to plan. He preferred to follow his inspiration and do what he felt most like doing at that particular time.

”When I felt like studying literature, that’s what I did. I never had any specific daily musts, but rather did whatever I felt like that day. I was also involved in other projects, which made this process quite random and yet so rewarding”, he says and quickly adds, “I mean, I had some structure. I knew that I couldn’t work on my first study for three years.”

According to Nadim ups and downs come and go all the time, sometimes in the same day, sometimes over a period of time.

”I never really had a down period when it comes to performance anxiety, probably since I often have a self-confidence slightly stronger than it should be”, he says laughing.

However, he admits that he was struck by some weird feelings that he thinks are hard to understand unless you have been through the same process. At the same time, he always found it rewarding.

”I don’t know, but we love this. It seems like…strange, frustrating, funny patterns that seem universal for doctoral students. But something drives us to do this despite all the frustration and negative feelings. I guess there’s a little bit of a masochist in all of us…”, he contemplates.

Nadim’s dissertation took place the 12 February.

”I should get stressed over this any time soon. So far I haven’t created one single slide for the presentation”, he admits with what seems to be an honest calm less than a week away from his dissertation.

Afterwards three weeks of vacation awaits. He does look forward to it, but at the same time he expects a certain emptiness to hit him.

His contract at HIC ends in May. Until then he will lecture and supervise a couple of practical labs. He will also supervise three master students from the Health Informatics Programme. What happens after that is uncertain. He has not yet decided, but he hasn’t excluded anything, doesn’t want to shut any doors. Nadim has always been driven by whatever seems difficult, so why not aim for a professorship?

Nadims tips to doctoral students and to those who are considering a doctoral education:

 “Don’t take it too seriously. Not that what you do is not important and not because you won’t change the world with something ground-breaking, you might. But consider that this is something that you do during a limited period of time and that it is an education. Try to focus on learning and enjoying!”


Nadims supervisors:

Sabine Koch, Professor Health Informatics Centre, LIME

Tiago Moreira, Neurologist and researcher, Institution of Clinical Neuro science

Michael Fored, Associate Professor, Institution of Medicin, Solna

Rong Chen, Cambio Healthcare Systems and affiliated to LIME