Scholarship for the PhD in Medical Sciences in the field of Epidemiology and Public Health for the...

Updated: 6 months ago
Deadline: 13 Dec 2021

The PhD in Medical Sciences:

The University of Nicosia Medical School offers the degree PhD in Medical Sciences. The degree is awarded to students who successfully complete an independent research programme that breaks new ground in the chosen field of study. The PhD programme aspires to empower students to become independent researchers, thus advancing innovation and development.

The Research Project:

We are currently inviting applications through a competitive process for high calibre candidates to apply for one PhD Scholarship for a project in the field of Epidemiology and Public Health. The successful candidate will enrol on the PhD programme in Medical Sciences and will work under the Supervision of Dr Christiana Demetriou, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Nicosia Medical School.

Project Description:

Title of research project: Overall and Cause-Specific Mortality Resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic (C-MOR project: https://www.unic.ac.cy/coronavirus/mortality/ ).

Background and rationale: At the end of December 2019, Chinese public health authorities reported several cases of acute respiratory syndrome in Wuhan City, China. The new zoonotic disease, now referred to as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), spread rapidly in practically all parts of the world.

Initial estimates on COVID-related mortality reported a case fatality ratio - CFR (% of individuals with symptomatic or confirmed disease who die from the disease) of 2-3%, a figure also adopted by the WHO. More recent estimates though, based on model-based approaches adjusting for demography and age-based and location-based under-ascertainment, bring the CFR down to 1.4%. Similarly, the model-based infection fatality ratio - IFR (% of infected individuals who die from the disease, including those with mild disease) was estimated to be 0.7%.

Despite the sophisticated modelling behind the estimates reported above, there are several factors not taken into consideration in regards to the total mortality burden: (a) the possible underreporting of COVID-related deaths; (b) the effects of the pandemic to total (all-cause) mortality and indirect cause-specific mortality (i.e. resulting from other major causes of death); (c) the impact of the pandemic on premature mortality (i.e. total years of life lost); and (d) the long-term impact of the pandemic on mortality. Reflecting on the above, the 9th ECDC report update on COVID-19 highlights the urgent need for more comprehensive assessment of the mortality impact of the pandemic and identification of the most affected population groups in a timely manner, noting that this is essential for the overall evaluation of the pandemic’s burden.

Aims and Objectives:

The proposed study aims to answer the following four research questions:

  • Is there evidence for underreporting of COVID-19 related deaths and COVID-19 specific mortality in specific countries?
  • What is the overall mortality impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in selected countries, taking into consideration fluctuations in COVID-19 related indirect mortality from other causes and healthcare system overload?
  • What is the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic in selected countries, in regards to premature mortality?
  • What is the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic in selected countries, in regards to long-term mortality and what will be the impact of potential subsequent epidemic waves?
  • This research project is an ongoing study with rolling data collection from all international partners and continuous statistical analysis. The specific research question(s) to be addressed by the PhD candidate will depend on the time of the PhD initiation, and the background/interests of the candidate. Examples of potential topics for analysis include:

    • Identification of the independent and synergistic effect of potential sociodemographic and economic determinants on excess mortality in participating countries.
    • Contribution of non COVID-19 deaths to excess mortality observed during the COVID-19 pandemic in participating countries; cause specific mortalities to be investigated include influenza, cardiovascular, cardio-metabolic, and cancer mortalities.
    • Comparison of mortality characteristics of the COVID-19 waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in participating countries.

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