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What Does a Medical Statistician Do?

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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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A medical statistician is primarily concerned with calculating statistics and determining probabilities for a range of different health-related endeavors. A person in this role helps researchers understand drug interaction risks or ingredient proportion gradations, and may also help generate numbers to represent disease pandemics, health care access, and other demographic information. There are a great many job opportunities in medicine for people with theoretical statistics training, as most medical research depends at least in part on the work of dedicated statisticians. No matter the venue, though, all medical statistician jobs involve similar duties. Chief among them are research, data analysis, and the mathematical manipulation and presentation of health facts.

The most important task of any medical statistician is turning medical data into useable information that can shape some aspect of health care. Medical statistics, or “biostatistics” as they are sometimes called, are means of quantifying and understanding vast sets of data. Statisticians work in many different venues, from labs and clinics to pharmaceutical corporations, non-profit groups, and outsourced offices. The data they work with can be very different, but what they do with it is usually similar across the board, at least on a basic level.

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Data amalgamation and formulation is usually the backbone of the statistician's work. A medical statistician is, in many respects, a mathematician with specialized training in medical research. He or she first collects the results of experiments, patient reactions, or any number of clinical trials. The numbers must be parsed, quantified on a scale that accounts for any variables, then distributed in some meaningful way. Statisticians are usually able to turn raw data into percentages, success rates, and future projections that scientists, doctors, and lab technicians can use in many different settings.

A medical statistician may also act as an adviser to a medical group or corporation. Statisticians are not usually medically trained, but they are usually required to understand the dimensions and relevance of the materials they are working with. They can often use their studies to make suggestions about how to achieve better results or how to improve certain aspects of care, for instance.

Applied statistics experts are usually permanent employees, though they may also perform consultancy work. Project-based assignments are usually designed to be short-term, often ending in a defined report that can then be used for some discreet project. Statisticians with a lot of experience can often make quite a good living bouncing from client to client.

In most cases, each project must be within the medical statistician’s basic line of expertise. Although the science and process behind the job is largely consistent from setting to setting, the actual work usually requires some degree of expertise and understanding. Statisticians usually work only within defined sub-fields of related information.

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