Friday, April 27, 2018

Statistics: The Cause Of, And Solution To All Medical Problems

In pharmacy school, there were times where mountains of material coincided with a flurry of exams. Such extreme circumstances called for masterclass test taking skills. For example, when a hundred page packet would account for 10 questions on an exam, and a 20 page packet also accounting for 10 questions, the logical studying strategy would focus on maximizing the number of points from the lower quantity material. Fast forward a decade after these exams and I found myself in the same situation. The BCPS exam is not so different from a test taking perspective.

When you consider that the BCPS exam content breakdown consists of 55% patient specific pharmacotherapy - that is a little over half of the exam pulls from ALL OF MEDICINE. Where 45% of the exam is based on a relatively small amount of content: statistics, regulatory issues and system based questions (P&T issues, MTM, etc.). An astute test taker is going to save time by not studying the various mesalamine formulations and their corresponding niches and spend that time knowing stats cold.

Through my years of practice, reading journals, and conducting my own research, I’ve become relatively familiar with stats. One could say I’ve got a pretty good working knowledge. So when the time came to recertify for BCPS, I wasn’t going to take any chances. With so many points on the table for this relatively small subject, I took every opportunity to brush up and learn something new.

Much of my preparation consisted of self-directed reading and learning, but I was falling short on what I expected of myself when studying. With my partnership with High-Yield MED Reviews, I had the opportunity to broaden my biostatistics knowledge from an expert in the field, Dr. Busti. When it comes to statistics, learning from a professional with experience from the likes of the Cochrane collaboration is as good as it gets. High-Yield Med Reviews (HYMR) offers a live webinar for biostatistics, which I was able to participate in.

The webinar itself could have been a difficult presentation to get through, since biostatistics are not exactly the most exciting thing on the planet. But I quickly realized that Dr. Busti wasn’t going to bore anyone by reviewing the application of a Student’s t-test vs and ANOVA- he tied everything back to real world practice. Each learning objective used real examples from existing articles (most of which were landmark studies- another good review), and was presented in a way that each concept was built upon from the previous one. In making the content relatable and applicable, the concepts became easier to grasp.  Grasping the concepts is they key, as Dr. Busti pointed out. The BCPS exam isn’t going to as straight-forward questions; it’s testing your knowledge in application of concepts.

The webinar itself was an excellent compliment to the biostatistic modules. But starting from my level of experience, I was able to jump right onto the webinar content. For a new graduate or young professional, you really need to spend some time reviewing biostatistic concepts before the webinar. Without preparing adequately, key points will fly over your head. Unlike the online module content, the webinar cannot be paused or rewinded. Although you can ask questions, in order to maximize the effectiveness of the webinar, one must be prepared beforehand.

While other professional organization review courses require dedication of your time and resources to travel and attend, the HYMR is 100% online. This allows you to be able to participate from the comfort of your home. However, it’s not brief. The webinar runs about 3-4 hours. Personally, my attention span is not that long. Particularly when a 10 month old is crawling around my ankles. Although long, it is worth it. The time invested here is well spent, especially compared to either traveling to a live review, or attempting to structure a similarly effective program yourself.  

Although my bias is towards recommending HYMR given our partnership, I truly feel it is beneficial. The famous “Stats Table” seen in many study guides will help with BCPS preparation, it will only get you so far, and won’t truly contribute to you becoming a better pharmacist. Since I’m already putting in the effort to study and pass the exam, why not also improve my biostatistic skills at the same time? The benefits extend beyond test preparation into one’s own practice, and improve either your study design skills or at minimum, your literature analysis skills. Furthermore, for residency programs, these modules would be a good investment of the program to provide a didactic element of biostatistics.

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