September 30, 2005

Biostatistics clinics set to bolster research

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Biostatistics clinics set to bolster research

Two years ago, when he was named founding chairman of Vanderbilt's Department of Biostatistics, Frank Harrell, Ph.D., heralded the opportunity for a biostatistics resource for all Medical Center faculty that exists only at the best medical centers in the country.

On Monday, he'll take one more step up that ladder, when the Department of Biostatistics begins is daily noon-time "clinics," sessions where researchers in the School of Medicine can bring questions about analyses, whether it's crunching numbers they have already gathered, designing new studies, applying for grants or just theorizing.

"In line with our overarching goals of increasing the quality and quantity of research in the Medical Center, the goal of the clinics is to help researchers no matter what their funding situation," said Harrell.

While his department has formal collaborations with several departments and divisions across campus, "there are several components in the School of Medicine that don't have biostatistical support … We get a lot of requests every week for help of this type."

The clinics take on a different theme each day: Mondays will address general questions. "They're especially good for people to bring analyses and journal articles they want interpreted, or requests for how to design statistical displays or graphics," Harrell said.

Tuesdays pair the departments of Biomedical Informatics and Biostatistics for an "omics" day, related to design and data interpretation resources related to gene micro array and proteomics. “The Tuesday clinics should provide a wonderful opportunity to help assist researchers in design and interpretation of 'high dimensionality' data experiments using numerical analysis combined with data mining and machine learning approaches,” said Daniel Masys, M.D., chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics.

Wednesdays, the Section of Surgical Sciences co-sponsors clinics focused on surgical research, heavy on outcomes research and exploratory data analysis. Thursdays are a continuation of the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) statistical skills workshop, which has served as a pattern for the other topics. Fridays are tailored to basic researchers, emphasizing experimental design.

Growing the department, another of Harrell's goals in 2003, has enabled the clinics. The number of biostatisticians has increased from 12 to 36. Sponsorships from the Department of Biomedical Informatics, the General Clinical Research Center, the Section of Surgical Sciences and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center have also been key to creating the clinics.

Clinics are open to all faculty having primary appointments in the schools of Medicine or Nursing and to all Kennedy Center faculty. They are also open to post-docs and senior laboratory personnel whose lab directors also attend the clinic, medical and surgical fellows and Emphasis students who attend with their mentor.

Light lunches will be provided.

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