Getting the numbers right
Biostatistician Anita Pelecanos feels fortunate to have found a career which combines statistics with biology and medicine.
As a member of the QIMR Berghofer statistics unit, Anita is one of 11 biostatisticians who provide a specialised statistical consultancy service to QIMR Berghofer, Mater Research, and clinicians and researchers at Metro North.
“I’ve always been good at mathematics and statistics, but also I have a keen interest in the way human physiology works. It is complicated but elegant, which I find fascinating,” Anita said.
“Each day I have the opportunity to learn from my talented clients about new medical developments.”
In her day to day work, Anita enjoys meeting with doctors, nurses, allied health workers, and medical researchers from RBWH about what statistical assistance they or their project teams need.
“I usually work on around 20 projects at one time across a broad range of areas including but not limited to anaesthesia, critical care, women’s and newborn, gastroenterology, oncology and dietetics,” Anita said.
“A typical day for me involves consultations with clients discussing their research project specifically formulating their research question, planning the design and size of their study, advising on the analyses required, or interpreting results and discussing their presentation for publication.”
The Statistics Unit supports researchers from the beginning to the end of a project, which may include calculating sample sizes, performing statistical analyses, helping write grant applications or research protocols, providing statistical training to groups, assisting in preparation of manuscripts and responding to reviewers’ comments.
“The studies are very interesting- one study published recently was a randomised control trial to assess whether probiotics can help prevent gestational diabetes in high-risk overweight and obese women,” Anita said.
“This study was with Professor Leonie Calloway, Senior Specialist in Obstetric and Internal Medicine at RBWH and we found that the probiotic examined appeared to have no preventative effect.”
The QIMR Berghofer statistics unit
The Statistics Unit has provided statistical consultancy and collaboration to RBWH since 2006, expanding its services to all of Metro North in July 2015. The Statistics Unit also provides service to scientists and clinicians at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and Mater Medical Research Institute. The group includes 11 biostatisticians.
Their statistical consultancy to scientists and clinicians includes:
- one-to-one discussion and statistical work between client and biostatistician
- training courses, workshops and seminars on method and practice of statistics
- development of statistical resources for clients to help themselves
- collaborative work on projects with substantive statistical issues
- professional development for the biostatisticians.
Currently there are three trainee biostatisticians in the unit. Professional development for biostatisticians is pivotal to the unit’s success and involves formal education, travel to build collaborations and mentoring.
Three of the biostatisticians have adjunct appointments with local Brisbane universities and the team are expert reviewers for the human research ethics committees at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, The Prince Charles Hospital and QIMR Berghofer.