MPH program, Biostatistics
Interning as a biostatistician at a contract research organization
Describe the work you’re doing for your practicum.
As a Prometrika intern, I perform the tasks of a biostatistician in a contract research organization: writing a statistical analysis plan, performing a literature search, reviewing data validation guidelines and data management plans, and writing analysis file specs. My practicum project consists of writing a ‘mock’ protocol for a drug of my choosing.
What are the greatest challenges and successes you’ve had so far?
The greatest challenge so far has been to make the connection in a specific trial between what should have been measured (according to the schedule of events) and what was actually measured. The greatest success so far has been to perform literature research; starting with a couple thousand articles and narrowing it down to those that fit our specific criteria.
What skills have you been able to put to use?
The use of SAS (which is a requirement in this industry), and past experience in data management that enabled me to review data management work.
What experience have you been able to gain?
An understanding of the work performed by a biostatistician in the clinical trial world, how to write a statistical analysis plan, and interacting with employees with different specializations (programmers, data managers).
What have you found to be helpful in terms of making the most of your practicum experience?
My contact with the SPH Practice Office. Also, sitting down with my field supervisor and writing the learning contract and later the midpoint review. This enabled me to check that I was going in the right direction and summarize all of the projects I was involved with.
What tips can you offer to practicum students regarding the practicum?
Know your goals. Where do you want to do a practicum? What do you want to learn? I would also recommend asking other students about their practicum experiences.
How did you find your practicum placement?
The Practice Office. After meeting with the staff and explaining where I would like to do a practicum, I left the office with a list of contacts at organizations that I was interested in, including Prometrika.
Has your practicum met your expectations? Do you think your practicum will inform the next steps in your public health career?
Yes. When I started the practicum I wanted to gain a broader understanding of how a contract research organization worked, and what tasks a biostatistician performed on a daily basis. I have been able to perform some of these tasks, and to work with biostatisticians on real problems. During this practicum I gained a better understanding of the clinical trial world and of the FDA guidelines. Moreover, I have been able to make the connection between what we learn in our biostatistics class and what we are asked to do in the field.
This practicum has enabled me to gain experience as a biostatistician, and to learn how to write statistical documents that are part of the biostatistician job description. I also learned how to use SAS in real life cases.