Friday, August 24, 2007

Classes and Biostats Homework

Yesterday I had epi, and we spent more time going over diagnostic tests. There was one sentence in one of the articles we were asked to read that made absolutely no sense to me. I asked the instructor about it, and he started congratulating me for having caught that and said he had no idea where it came from either. I don't think it requires much to notice it, because it completely doesn't fit in with the rest of the paper. It's like the authors just lifted a sentence out of some other paper and dropped it into this one! In the afternoon, I was hoping to go consent more patients with the resident, but we didn't end up going. We had two study patients having their surgeries yesterday, but they were both controls.

Today we had journal club. I didn't enjoy this one as much, mainly because I was one of the student evaluators. It's a lot harder to follow the flow of conversation when you're busy taking notes and filling in all of those little boxes on the eval sheet. Plus, the internet kept going in and out, so I had to pay attention when I was trying to save to make sure I was connected at the time. The first paper was about using MRI as a screening method to detect breast cancer, and we had a really good discussion that unfortunately I could only partly participate in. The second paper was about the relationship between obesity and cancer. Some good issues came up during that discussion as well, mainly about whether the difference in mortality due to cancer was caused by obesity itself, or by the fact that it is harder to diagnose and treat tumors in people who are obese.

I spent most of this afternoon working on my biostats homework. I was trying to verify the sample size that the statistician had come up with, and I couldn't get it for several reasons. First, this trial is way more complicated than anything we've done in class. For example, there are three interim stopping points, and all of that has to be accounted for statistically. Second, the particular calculation the statistician used is not available on the software we are using, which is called PASS. In the end, I got close to the statistician's number, and I explained in my paper why I couldn't duplicate it exactly.

Right after I finished doing all of this, I received an email that had been sent out to our entire class. Some of my classmates had gone to speak to the dean with a petition concerning the workload we have been getting this summer. They got a few concessions, one of which was that the people who are not taking biostats for grad school credit don't have to do this homework assignment. Since I am taking biostats for credit, it doesn't affect me. It would have sucked though if I weren't taking it for credit, because I literally had just finished the assignment right before the email arrived! But the students did get one of our CAPPs for Week 6 taken away, and apparently our fourth biostats group project will be shorter now.

This block has been very intense. It was definitely a lot more work and harder than I had expected it to be. I think that probably all of us were expecting it to be more like last summer, which was relatively laid back. It has also been very difficult to balance our classwork with research. In spite of the onerousness of writing eight zillion essays, I have to admit that these homework assignments have taught me way more than any of the seminars or readings we've been asked to do have.

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