Biostatistics? Statistics focused on biological data
The new head of the Biostatistics team is MUDr. Michal Šitina Ph.D. MSc. We talked in a short interview about his plans for the future, but also about the services that this department can offer not only to other research teams within the FNUSA-ICRC, but also to individual clinics of the hospital and external subjects.
A brief introduction at the beginning, what was your professional journey to the head of the Biostatistics department?
I used to hesitate to study medicine or physical chemistry or physics, because I was both very interested. I chose medicine and I still work as a doctor, internist with an interest in intensive care medicine. Later, I lived for about 8 years and worked as a doctor in Jena, Germany. In Jena because there is an extensive sepsis research program that I was going to get involved in. There is also a large old university in Jena. Eventually, I succumbed to the urge to enroll in the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, studying first bioinformatics and later a Master’s degree in Computational and Data Science (basically Numerical Mathematics and Data Analysis), as well as a basic course in theoretical physics. After returning to the Czech Republic in 2019, I did not want to leave medicine, but also mathematical disciplines. FNUSA-ICRC made it possible to combine the two – I work for the most part at ARK (Department of Anaesthesiology and Resuscitation) as a doctor and a smaller one in the Biostatistics department. After Mrs. Mgr. Bělašková left FNUSA-ICRC, I became the head of the department. I have the slight advantage over others that I can be a mediator between statistics / mathematicians on the one hand and doctors / biologists on the other. The downside is that I can’t do either properly.
You were actively involved in the fight against COVID-19 last spring, are you continuing to do so?
In the first wave of the pandemic, we helped the hospital monitor data on hospitalized patients and bed capacity. Because the hospital information system (NIS) does not easily provide all the necessary data, we have developed a new solution in the REDCap system. In the autumn, we adapted this solution for the needs of the entire South Moravian Region – every day the individual hospitals of the South Moravian Region update the condition of their beds of various types so that they can be available at any time, for example for the regional coordinator prof. Šrámek for managing patient routing and planning hospital capacity adjustments.
Biostatistics is a so-called Core Facility, what does it mean from your point of view?
A Core Facility is generally a central laboratory or unit that offers its expert services to other departments within a center, hospital, or external entity. It offers the services that most others need, such as statistics. I believe that we will be a sought-after and valuable partner for research teams. This year, we have hired three new colleagues, graduates of mathematical biology, so we can guarantee the delivery of serious results in a reasonably short time.
What services do you offer?
We offer several services. First of all data analysis. From easy analyzes that teams would probably be able to do without us, they just don’t have the time to do so, through exploratory analyzes, which means searching for knowledge and context in data, to complex regression models, survival analysis, time series analysis, bioinformatics analysis, etc. We can also help with the preparation of projects or grants, such as estimating the required sample size of the study or consulting with its design. We will also help prepare professional charts for the needs of presentations or articles. Another important activity is the creation (fitted to a specific study) and management of a database in the REDCap system, which is easy to use. As a novelty, we offer support in the use of the OpenProject project application (https://project-icrc.fnusa.cz), which facilitates the planning and management of clinical trials or project management.
Why should research teams use the services of ours and not external suppliers? We offer an understanding of the problem – we are oriented not only in statistics, but also in medicine. We try to make the results not only statistically exact, but also give medical or biological meaning and answer the questions that the researcher asks.
So it’s an IT job, how do you relax?
Unfortunately, I have a minimum time to relax. I still hope it gets better. But many are even more busy. I play piano. Classical music. I would like to actively improve my piano playing. Brno makes it possible, there is, for example, a conservatory and JAMU, unfortunately not a coronavirus situation at the moment.