MedEd Monday #1: Seductive Statistics

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This is a TED talk worth hearing:

http://ted.com/talks/view/id/846

In less than 6 minutes, Sebastian Wernicke presents the power of numbers. Aptly titled “LIES, DAMN LIES AND STATISTICS” this is a discourse in how to use numbers. One of my teachers used to say that if you tortured numbers long enough, they would say whatever you wanted them to. And this TED Talk takes it one step further: presenting numbers in an attractive way is equally important in getting your message across (no matter how spurious the associations may be!).

Unfortunately, in our medical education curriculum, statistics is limited to a few hours of rather boring, grating lectures which rarely lead to any practical experiences for any of us. That said, nowadays more and more people are doing short term research studentships (thanks to ICMR and KVPY) which makes for at least a fraction of the students getting some exposure to hard core, practical biomedical statistics.

What is even more important is that in this day and age, thanks to the rapid proliferation of Evidence Based Medicine we are faced with a barrage of information and we need to sort out the chaff from the grain. Also, thanks to the ubiquitous Wikipedia, we are on the cusp of facing patients who are well versed with their conditions and demand that we show them solid reason to back up our actions. All these require the employment of statistics. Nothing speaks stronger than the language of numbers.

That said, with the newer, application-based curriculum set to be brought in by the MCI in the undergraduate medical curriculum, we could be seeing more stuff in it regarding Biomedical Statistics and the uses thereof!

Skeptic Oslerphile, Scientist at the Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases. Interests include: Emerging Infections, Public Health, Antimicrobial Resistance, One Health and Zoonoses, Diarrheal Diseases, Medical Education, Medical History, Open Access, Healthcare Social Media and Health2.0. Opinions are my own!

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