Getting a Kelly Carwash

Where EG's starting to wish she had moved to warmer climes when she had the chance..

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More Proof that I'm a Geek

About a month ago, a statistician in West Palm Beach, Florida accidentally emailed a list containing the names of 8500 HIV and AIDS positive patients to about 800 different people. He quickly realized his error and his organization’s IT department was able to locate and delete all of the emails. Word of the breach leaked to the press, however, and many of the people whose names were on that list were rightfully upset and quite scared. As a fellow statistician, I can absolutely see how something like this could happen. He had meant to attach only a table of anonymous statistics and added one too many documents to the email. An easy, yet devastating, mistake to make.

I began my college career at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. My mom is a nurse, and based on the exposure to medicine that I received from her I was positive I wanted to go into health care. The U of I has one of the best medical schools in the country which, among other reasons, led me there to major in pre-med. Two semesters later, I got the hell out of Dodge. Though I managed to get all A’s, I battled a psycho roommate, a case of depression that I didn’t totally come out of until I went on medication, almost nightly trips to the bars (though I have to admit, that was pretty fun), and various other personal problems. My sophomore year of college I enrolled at Iowa State, where they didn’t even really have a pre-med program. By that time, though, I understood what it would mean to get my MD. Specifically, I knew I didn’t want to be in school for 12 more years. I started off with a Biology major (why waste the icky chemistry I had already taken?) and got through my first semester with flying colors. ISU felt like home, and my friends there (including Andy) were like family. A loud, drunk, porn-watching family with strange nicknames, but family none-the-less. I took my first statistics class during the second semester of my sophomore year. I had heard countless horror stories about stats, but I had a fantastic instructor (who I found out later is a career student and probably still hasn’t graduated) and I not only understood what he was talking about, but loved it. I changed my major to stats before I even finished the class.

I managed to graduate with a major in statistics and a minor in biology in 4 years total, and with a pretty good GPA. I left college with all sorts of knowledge about biology and genetics, but knew almost nothing about statistics. I couldn’t have even told you what a p-value was. Luckily, I paid attention in all of my programming classes, and as a beginning BS degreed statistician that’s all you really need to know. But after working in the field for 6 years, I can confidently say I can handle most basic statistical concepts and even some that aren’t so basic. In hindsight I probably should have stuck with something more applied, like business or computer science. But I couldn’t imagine being in anything other than health care, which is where I am now, even if statistics might not have been the best way to get there. Besides, there are parts about my job that I absolutely love. And isn’t that what’s important? That and warm weather, but I’m still working on the weather thing.


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