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MRC IEU programme awarded IAS Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professorship to host Syrian academic

29 April 2016

Prof Marcus Munafò and Dr Andy Skinner have been awarded an IAS Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professorship in order to support the visit of smoking cessation expert Prof Samer Rastam of the Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies in Aleppo, Syria. The purpose of these awards is to bring distinguished researchers from abroad and elsewhere in the UK to Bristol in order to enhance the research activity of the University. ‌

‌Professor Rastam will join the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group where he will work closely with Dr. Andy Skinner on the IEU’s Data Capture Theme. Prof. Rastam will be contributing to a project to enable the capture of standardised data about stop smoking services around the globe.‌ 

Visiting Professor, Samer Rastam

Standardising data across stop smoking services has already lead to considerable benefits here in the UK. The aim of this project – in collaboration with UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, Kings College London and University College London - is to extend this national success globally. To achieve this, we need to understand regional variations in things like the availability and naming of medicines, the level of personal information that is acceptable to request, and what equipment resources are available. For this, we need input from experts familiar with stop smoking services in different regions.

Professor Rastam’s post will allow us to define and begin capturing standardised data from stop smoking services around the globe.  This will enable epidemiological studies examining variations in smoking cessation outcomes among different cohorts of smokers around the world.

With the current civil war in Syria, it is important that support is provided for those civilians effected. IEU programme lead, Marcus Munafò believes "As a University, it's important that we do what we can to preserve the intellectual life of Syria".

Dr. Andy Skinner adds “Professor Rastam’s considerable experience working with stop smoking services in Syria, and his broad expertise in smoking services in the Middle East, will be invaluable in helping us decide which types of data we should aim to collect”

“I really appreciate the opportunity the Benjamin Meaker Fellowship brings to continue my research at Bristol University. On a personal level, the Benjamin Meaker Fellowship is a salvation for me and my family, as we were living in Aleppo, where civil war is still ongoing; where bombs, missiles and rockets frequently strike the city.” – Prof. Samer Rastam

Professor Rastam will join the school in early September. 

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