Home > Medical School, Medical/Health Commentary > “The kids don’t know how to read a case-control”

“The kids don’t know how to read a case-control”

January 23, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments
The re-drawn chart comparing the various gradi...

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In a world where everybody wants more of their pet cause in the medical school curriculum, it’s always enjoyable to find such a cause that actually merits support.

Jin Packard, blogging at Low-Yield Medical, makes the case that medical school needs to give statistics and epidemiology the respect they deserve, using his own training as an example of how not to do it.

I, for one, view statistical fluency as a basic life skill — though given my background in economics (with all the exposure to stats and econometrics it entails) I would be expected to say that. If you disagree with me as far as physicians are concerned, go read Jin’s piece… it’ll set you straight.

Where I seem to part ways with him, however, is on the advisability of trying to get all of this material in during medical school. When I think of how much I learned in two semester as an undergraduate (and how much more I taught myself afterwards), it seems like a whole lot for a medical school course. Given that many medical schools are shortening the amount of time spent in the classroom from the traditional 2 years to 1.5 (or even 1, in some cases!), when do you teach it?

Personally, I would change the pre-med requirements so that “two semesters of math” becomes “two semesters of statistics.” Advanced calculus is nice to know, but I have yet to use it once. Statistics, on the other hand, are all around us. If students have a good foundation upon entry, it makes the task of the med school that much more achievable, and gives them that many fewer excuses for failure.

And let’s be honest, failure is what we have right now.


Title taken from Sam Roberts‘s ever-so-catchy song “Them Kids.” [second link will stream the song]

As I’ve blogged before, “the kids also don’t know how to make payroll.

  1. January 26, 2011 at 11:56

    Thanks for posting your thoughts on this topic. I initially said, in response to your suggestion, that shifting biostats into pre-med years would make things worse. I said that because I thought it would simply eliminate the discussion of statistics altogether from med school.

    On second thought, I agree with you.

    I was shocked at how many in my class had no basic comprehension of what a normal curve is. They couldn’t understand ANOVA or standard error of means (multiple samples). Had they been through 2 semesters of stats in undergrad, they would have spent less time on such basics and been able to apply these concepts straight to clinical literature and experimental design, here in med school.

    Thanks for your 2 cents!

  1. May 6, 2011 at 23:43

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