Category Archives: Q&A

Q2: What does a medical statistician do?

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) MSc Medical Statistics web page sums up the skills of a medical statistician:

  • select appropriate study designs to address questions of medical relevance
  • select and apply appropriate statistical techniques for managing common types of medical data
  • use various software packages for statistical analysis and data management
  • interpret the results of statistical analyses and critically evaluate the use of statistics in the medical literature
  • communicate effectively with statisticians and the wider medical community, in writing and orally through presentation of results of statistical analyses
  • explore current and anticipated developments in medical statistics

Q1: What is Medical Statistics?

Two non-scientific friends of mine once tried to figure out what a medical statistician does. After much consideration they came to me with these two things:

1. “If someone’s discovered an antidote [I think they meant a treatment!] to a disease, you test it and see if it is any good?”

2. “You come up with those figures you see in newspapers, things like ‘eating sausages doubles your risk of a heart attack’?”

They actually summarised medical statistics quite well!

My slightly more technical answer would be that medical statistics is the application of statistics to medical and health matters. A medical statistician should have training in the theory and practice of statistics and be able to apply that knowledge to improve global health. For example, a medical statistician should be able to select and use appropriate statistical techniques to analyse medical data, such as data from a clinical trial or an epidemiological study. I.e. we test “antidotes” and come up with figures about the population’s risk… so far I have not investigated sausages though.

Related item:

Medical Statistics and Biostatistics defined