Andrew Gelman has an important reminder:
Lots of doctors can do this sort of thing—lots of them are indeed excellent at evaluating research claims—but if so, I don’t think it’s the medical training that’s doing it. The medical training, and their practice of medicine, gives them lots of relevant subject-matter knowledge—I’m not saying this is irrelevant—but subject-matter knowledge isn’t enough, and I think it’s a big mistake when media organizations act as if an M.D. is a necessary or a sufficient condition for evaluating research claims.This is so true in my experience; there are medical doctors who are preternaturally good at research, I work with some, but their high level of research is rarely correlated with their medical training, per se. It is usually a result of either extensive self-education as a life-long learner or having snuck in some research training along the way. I think Andrew is correct here and it would be a benefit to everyone if we recognized this fact and did not level unfair expectations on M.D.'s.
I remember a dialogue between an MD researcher and a PhD a while ago talking about how we evaluate clinical evidence and decide we know things. I wish I'd bookmarked it, but alas no link.ReplyDelete
The relevant bit was the Ph.D. explaining her experience when she went to talk to practicing doctors they often took the tone that they needed to explain what "really worked" out in the field. Her attitude was "I've just finished a quantitative analysis of tens of thousands of reported cases from around the world, but by all means please explain how I'm wrong based on the 4 patients you've treated with this specific malady."