All too often I hear my fellow MS2s complain about learning biostatistics. On the one hand, it is understandable because it is extra material to learn that doesn’t directly apply to pathophysiology. However, in my opinion, understanding biostatistics well is an extremely useful skill for an effective physician to possess. Being able to design an effective study, using the correct methods to analyze the data, and then interpreting the results correctly is imperative for a physician scientist. But that doesn’t mean that doctors who have no plans to research should be off the hook!
In order to be a part of the evolving medical field, a physician needs to be able to understand current research and allow the most up-to-date data to inform his practices. Understanding the correct way to interpret the data leads to more savvy medical decision making. Without statistics, we would not be able to say that a certain drug or method of treatment was effective (or ineffective) at treating an illness. Was the study a double-blinded randomized controlled trial? What does a relative risk ratio mean? What is the power of the study? Are there any biases in the study? At the very least, biostatistics should make a physician skeptical and open to change. If studies show a particular treatment to be ineffective, then a physician should be willing to change and adapt to it.
Furthermore, this insight should be used to educate our patients. If a patient says that they’re using some alternative medicine, what does the empirical data say about that treatment? If there is no evidence to support it, it is our duty, in my opinion, to educate our patients instead of embracing their so-called perceived benefits. Let empiricism guide our course, not emotions.