Statistical literacy among academic pathologists: A survey study to gauge knowledge of frequently used statistical tests among trainees and faculty

Robert L. Schmidt, Deborah J. Chute, Jorie M. Colbert-Getz, Adolfo Firpo-Betancourt, Daniel S. James, Julie K. Karp, Douglas C. Miller, Danny A. Milner, Kristi J. Smock, Ann T. Sutton, Brandon S. Walker, Kristie L. White, Andrew R. Wilson, Eva M. Wojcik, Marwan A. Yared, Rachel E. Factor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context.-Statistical literacy can be defined as understanding the statistical tests and terminology needed for the design, analysis, and conclusions of original research or laboratory testing. Little is known about the statistical literacy of clinical or anatomic pathologists. Objective.-To determine the statistical methods most commonly used in pathology studies from the literature and to assess familiarity and knowledge level of these statistical tests by pathology residents and practicing pathologists. Design.-The most frequently used statistical methods were determined by a review of 1100 research articles published in 11 pathology journals during 2015. Familiarity with statistical methods was determined by a survey of pathology trainees and practicing pathologists at 9 academic institutions in which pathologists were asked to rate their knowledge of the methods identified by the focused review of the literature. Results.-We identified 18 statistical tests that appear frequently in published pathology studies. On average, pathologists reported a knowledge level between "no knowledge" and "basic knowledge" of most statistical tests. Knowledge of tests was higher for more frequently used tests. Greater statistical knowledge was associated with a focus on clinical pathology versus anatomic pathology, having had a statistics course, having an advanced degree other than an MD degree, and publishing research. Statistical knowledge was not associated with length of pathology practice. Conclusions.-An audit of pathology literature reveals that knowledge of about 12 statistical tests would be sufficient to provide statistical literacy for pathologists. On average, most pathologists report they can interpret commonly used tests but are unable to perform them. Most pathologists indicated that they would benefit from additional statistical training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-287
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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