Sunday, March 11, 2012

I'm a Bio-What?

Although most of my friends who know me outside of the blog world know my job title, I figure that most of you readers really have no idea what I do professionally.  And even though my "in person" friends know my job title, most of them still have absolutely no clue what I actually do.  Dave has a general idea (thanks to my love of running my mouth), and my fellow statistician friends have a better idea than most, especially those who work in the biopharmaceutical industry.  However, I thought it'd be nice to give a little run-down of my responsibilities for all you readers dying to know what I do for 8 hours a day, Monday through Thursday. (And for all you readers who really don't care, feel free to skip the rest of this post. :) )

Job title:  Biostatistician
Definition of biostatistician: A person making or doing research on biostatistics
Definition of biostatistics: The science of statistics applied to the analysis of biological or medical data

And since I know that those definitions made sense to less than 0.2% of you (I don't even like those definitions myself - that's just what Google offered), I'll give you the basics in layman's terms to the best of my ability:

Companies who are developing drugs and want to sell them must first get approval from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration, the division of the government responsible for allowing drugs on the market).  These companies hire my company (Cato Research) to help them with that approval process.  It's a very lengthy and bumpy road to get drug approval, consisting of many clinical trials (drug studies in humans) and crazy long reports sent to the FDA.  My company can help with nearly every step: development of the drug, running animal studies, planning human studies, implementing human studies, analyzing data from human studies, writing reports, and sending analyses and reports to the FDA.

My job is to do all things statistics-related in the midst of these processes.  I help to decide how many subjects should be enrolled in a study, I provide input on how clinical trials are designed, I review the forms that are used to collect patient data, I review how those forms will be checked for errors, I plan which patients will receive drug and which will receive placebo in a study, I pre-plan the analyses that we will perform when a human trial ends, and then I implement the analyses after the trial is over.

It's been an interesting job with an incredibly steep learning curve.  Sometimes I feel like I only use my statistics degree about 5-10% of the time.  The rest of the time, I'm using my mind in the analytic ways you learn in grad school, applying information I've learned on the job.  (But maybe that is the way most jobs are?)  It can be very frustrating and overwhelming at times - and other times it's more relaxed, when I don't have many urgent deadlines.  It totally depends on the day.  And I'm constantly learning.  I feel like I'll never know all there is to know for my job.  Thank goodness I have an incredibly kind boss who is always willing to spend time with me, helping me learn.  He is awesome. :)

So that's the gist of it.  What about you readers?  Any random, weird professions out there?

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