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Medical Statistician

An interview with Hannah, a medical statistician working on our HIV studies.

What do you do?

I have worked at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit for over five years as a statistician. I’m a lead statistician for HIV trials in children in Europe. This involves collaborating with doctors and trial teams to conduct trials looking at new strategies to treat children with HIV.

Before a trial begins, I have to advise the teams on how many children are needed in a trial and the design of the trial. I also have to advise on the appropriate statistical methods to answer their question. During a trial, I monitor the quality of the data and liaise with the trial team. The safety and conduct of the trial is monitored regularly by an independent steering committee. It’s my responsibility to produce reports summarising the data collected so far for the committee to review. When a trial is finished, we do a full analysis and write a final report.

I also work on a study which measures resistance to anti-HIV drugs in adults with HIV in the UK. The database currently holds over 28,000 results. I work with doctors and virologists to answer questions about drug resistance in the UK.

It is important to share our findings from the trials and resistance studies, so a big part of my work is to collaborate on writing papers for medical journals and presenting the results at HIV conferences. I’m involved with developing new statistical methods as questions arise during the course of my work, and I attend statistical conferences.

There are many other aspects to my job, including reviewing other research and teaching basic statistics and principles of clinical trials to both doctors and undergraduate medical students.

What skills and qualifications do you need to be a medical statistician?

I have an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and a masters degree in Medical Statistics. Good organisation and communication skills are essential for my job, in particular the ability to convey statistical ideas to the general public. It’s not necessary to have a medical background, but the opportunity to learn about HIV and its treatment is something I particularly enjoy. That’s encouraged by the MRC Clinical Trials Unit.

What’s the potential for career development?

I’m about to start studying part time for a PhD in the MRC Clinical Trials Unit looking at the transmission of resistance to anti-HIV drugs in the UK. This will enable me to further my career as a statistician. Read more about PhD opportunities.