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Brief curriculum to teach residents study design and biostatistics
  1. Donna M Windish
  1. Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  1. Correspondence to Donna M Windish
    Yale Primary Care Residency Program, 64 Robbins Street, Waterbury, CT 06708, USA; donna.windish{at}

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Physicians have minimal understanding of common statistical tests and limited ability to interpret study results. These deficits may lead to incorrect study interpretation with erroneous application of results in clinical practice. This study describes the content and a preliminary evaluation of a curriculum aimed at providing resident physicians-in-training with the tools necessary to effectively interpret common study designs and statistics.

The four-session curriculum included readings, journal articles, seminars and presentations by learners. The curriculum covered exploratory data analysis, confirmatory data analysis and study designs. 52 internal medicine residents from one residency programme completed the course. Residents took a 20-item multiple-choice knowledge test after the course and results were compared with historical controls: residents in the same programme 1-year prior to the course and residents in 11 other training programmes.

The mean±SD proportion of correct answers for the 52 course participants was 58±16%. Historical controls – 26 residents in the same programme and 277 residents from other residency programmes – scored less well (48±14%, p=0.01 and 41±15%, p<0.0001, respectively).

Commonly used biostatistics and study design can be taught in a short timeframe and may increase residents' knowledge. Whether effects endure and whether additional training would be needed to lead to better critical appraisal skills and application to patient care remain unknown.


Critically appraised evidence summaries and practice guidelines can help provide clinicians with answers to clinical questions. Resources that provide such summaries, however, may be limited by the small number of conditions covered.1 Consequently, to answer many clinical questions, physicians may need to access original research reports and critically appraise the design, conduct, analysis and results of each study. Critical appraisal of original research may be a challenge for many physicians as more complicated statistical methods are being reported in the medical literature.2 3

Practicing physicians have a minimal …

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  • Competing interests None.