Select Page

Course on SPSS for medical statistics

Course on SPSS for medical statistics

At a recent meeting of fellow surgeons in my department, an interesting difference of opinion arose.  It relates to our trainees’ knowledge of statistics.  Unfortunately, the meeting did not allow any time to properly discuss the topic.

Some background to illuminate your way.  Registration as a medical specialist in South Africa is regulated by the Health Professions Council.  In recent years, the Council has introduced the completion of a mandatory research project, culminating in a dissertation.  This accompanies the usual prescribed formal examinations.

Universities in the country manage the research projects by way of a Master’s degree, for which all trainees must register.

The difference of opinion was simple.  From the opposite corner of the ring, it was suggested that our trainees require no knowledge of statistical analysis and should hand in their data to a statistician and merely use the results in their reports.

I do not share this opinion and feel strongly that all medical professionals should have an understanding of the topic.  While not all doctors and specialists are interested in research, I do believe that an understanding of statistics empowers the individual when evaluating published research.  This in turns helps to inform and change their practice.  As a surgeon, I know it does mine.  With no formal program for statistical teaching in our department, I looked towards open education.

To this end, I was a leading proponent in getting the University of Cape Town to sign up with the Coursera and FutureLearn massive open online course platforms.  The creation of twelve courses were funded by the Vice Chancellor and my course on Understanding Medical Research was the first to launch on Coursera.  It has been a phenomenal experience and the feedback has been tremendous.

Unfortunately, austerity measures have curtailed these efforts.  I funded my second course on Coursera through an external loan.  It is on the use of Julia (mathematical biology using scientific computing) and was created in collaboration with the Applied Mathematics Department.  The honors section of the course is on data management and statistical analysis.

To further my resolve in teaching medical statistics, I have taken to the Udemy platform with a course on medical statistics using Mathematica.  In the last few days I have also launched a course on the use of SPSS in healthcare and life science statistics.  Udemy is an interesting platform and I would encourage its use.

Link to the course: SPSS for healthcare and life science statistics

My opinion, though, is clear.  Learning to analyze data, is an empowering skill for everyone in healthcare.

Teaching statistics and data science in medical school

Teaching statistics and data science in medical school

Understanding statistical analysis and interpreting the results of research papers are just as important as the ability to correctly diagnose the cause of acute abdominal pain.

Medical knowledge is expanding at a rapid pace. This is evident by the number of research papers being published every year. Although medical students and residents attend a formal education program, it is journal papers that serve as masters of education for the majority of a professional’s life.

The ability to understand the results section of a paper is crucial in deciding to change clinical practice. In order to do this effectively, knowledge of statistics is vital.

Yet, formal training is statistics takes a back seat when it comes to anatomy, physiology, and, clinical teaching. When statitics is part of the curriculum, it is often positioned as less important. It gets even worse when taught with mathematical emphasis. Whilst it may be rigorous to teach using equations, a subset of medical students are lost in this effort.

No medical school can look the other way. Data analysis and computational thinking is part of the future of healthcare. I was reminded of this when I came across this article again, after reading it almost two years ago: NYU medical students learning to analyze big data.

Our efforts at University of Cape Town are growing too. The massive open online course: Understanding clinical research on the Coursera platform, has now had more than 23,000 participants. In the division of General Surgery, I teach the use of data analysis and computational thinking to great effect, using IBM SPSS, Python, Julia, and Mathematica.

It’s time data science and statistical analysis to take its rightful place in medical school curricula.

My Coursera MOOC now live!

My Coursera MOOC now live!

After many months of preparation, my massive open online course (MOOC) on healthcare statistics has gone live on Coursera today, December 01, 2015.  To sign up follow this link: Coursera.

This course build an intuitive understanding of statistics, without the use of complicated mathematical equations.  Everything from descriptive statistics to hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, p-values, Student’s t-test, chi-square tests and many more are explained.

On completion of this course you should feel confident in properly evaluating the published literature or even embark on your own research.