Biostatistics Poetry


We have been continuous.
But we're also a binary function ­ together, 1; apart, 0.

The survival function for relationships is monotonic, decreasing
The instantaneous hazard of failure increases
with every new tiny time bin.
Log log transformation of the variance does not change this inference.

Can biostatistics save us?
Perhaps our probability of "together" will increase
with a more parsimonious combination of betas.
I fear there are biases toward the null lurking everywhere,
confounders undiscovered.

Mar 2003

'Twas the Day Before the Final

'Twas the day before the final, when all through the class
Students sat impatiently, wondering if they would pass.
Practice tests and quizzes flung through the air,
In hopes that last minute studying would make Biostats seem clear.

The notes and review sheets were hot off the press,
While calculators and pencils lined every desk.
And the overhead projector sat ready to go,
As thoughts of winter break began to overflow.

When in front of the class a soft voice arose,
"Shall we begin now?" Dr. Diener-West proposed.
The rumbling of voices began to subside,
As each of us watched with our eyes opened wide.

With a flick of her wrist she uncapped each marker,
And began reviewing concepts we’d learned through the quarter.
Odds ratios, sample size, power, and correlations,
ANOVA, Bonferroni, and regression equations.

She paused for a moment as she flipped through her sheets,
Not noticing that the class had fallen asleep.
"This makes sense. Right?" she queried, waiting for a reply.
We smiled and nodded, though didn’t know why.

In a flash, the 2 minute break had come and gone,
Soon the session was over and it was nearly dawn.
With a grin Dr. D. finished our epic ride,
Exclaiming, “Happy studying to all, and may Biostatistics be your guide!”

Donna Windish
December 2003


Verse 1:
God rest ye merry grad students,
Let nothing Myoo dismay
Remember sample size was taught
Upon that special day
To give us all enough Power,
Where studies go astray

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

Verse 2:
Although correlation
Seems like a whole new ball game
Ho testing and CI’s
Bring tidings of the same
How that in Biostats we learn
All things are called “p” names

Verse 3:
“Fear not, then,” said Dr. West,
“Let nothing you affright,”
She teaches us ANOVA’s,
While smiling so bright
Only two more lectures to go,
The end is now in sight

Original Version
God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray

From God our heavenly father a blessed angel came
And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same
How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name

“Fear not, then,” said the angel, “let nothing you affright,”
This day is born a savior of pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in him from Satan’s power and might

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

     there are many things last term’s final for me did teach:
pride can fall quickly, and an A is out of reach,
words in a question can quickly confuse,
and i have little hope if a bell curve is not used.

as i looked up afterwards at the box plot on the big screen
with whiskers and lines and all marks in between,
on that fateful day the biostats gods against me did conspire,
as i finally realised i was that lonely outlier.

but now with this final my reputation i can redeem,
although with the term almost ending i’m losing some steam.
between wanting to finish biostats and needing a vacation,
i believe that you’ll find a perfectly positive correlation.

soon we can go home to impress family over dinner conversation
with our vast knowledge of regression analysis and z-table translation.
we’ll feel like we’re done; no more assignments so strenuous,
but soon we’ll be back – because biostats is one long variable that’s continuous.

monika dutt
december 2003


Anna Norink Of Virginia (ANOVA): the teetotaler

Anna Norink had no time to drink
She sat in her office and did nothing but think
Many Ys plagued her mind and left her breath full of sighs
Why some children live? Why some children die?

Dr. Bartlett came by Anna's Virginian estate
He brought her a test and some booze in a crate
She accepted his formula, but refused his strong drink
Then returned to her office and continued to think

Bonferroni was next to arrive at her house
He came bearing a correction and a potential young spouse
Anna accepted his aid, but rejected the suitor
She desired no romance only scholarly tutors

Many others came too, many biostats geeks
Sum of the squares came by 5 days a week
Anna welcomed all visitors with hot tea and cake
They discussed biostatistics and the children at stake

When not with her callers Anna studied statistical texts
Constantly worrying, "what child will be next?"
A desire to save, she was trying to please
So she considered all variables and totaled her Ts.

December 2003




Ode to Biostatistics

You look for a parameter,
To see if my love is true,
Some hopeful way to quantify,
My feelings, my true Mu,

But probability fails you,
There is no model to create,
Statistics doesn't teach you,
That my love does not deviate,

I've learned about your skewness,
About your curves and frequency,
You coyly show your stem-and-leaf,
Have you no decency!

I think about your intervals,
With timid hope I dare,
To believe that we are brought together,
Truly a matched pair,

Our encounters are but short and sweet,
When noon comes you retreat,
But soon you will begin to see,
Without you I'm incomplete,

You think we're independent,
Perhaps I am a sap,
To constantly be thinking,
About our possible overlap.

Will you ever come to realize,
You are the reason that I live?
My love is a null hypothesis,
With no alternative.

Ben Herbstman
November 2003

Hypothesis Testing Nightmare

Data in columns,
Data in rows,
A question to answer
That someone has posed.

I look at my numbers,
They look at me.
I set my statistic,
I choose a z.

To answer the question
I need to see,
If the data’s dichotomous
Then I can use p.

P’s go with q’s;
Those are the rules.
That part was easy,
But no time to lose!

Hats, bars and knots
Are next in line.
Too much to juggle
And not enough time!

I call upon Stata
To help with the data.
Now what do I type
To get this thing right?

I punch in the numbers
And check the commands;
The computer screen freezes
And ignores my demands.

The room grows dark,
My head starts to spin;
The nightmare continues
As I start all over again!

- Donna Windish
November 2003






In response to “Oh Poem

I don’t get so warm and fuzzy inside,
Biostatistics for me is no joy ride
I too wish I’d taken the baby stat
But now it’s too late…so that settles that

I still can’t believe what I’ve done
Committing my life to no sleep or fun
And that STATA dude is no friend of mine
Nor those Problem Sets that takes so much of my time

Every night I dream of Biostat
About μ’s and Rosner and all those facts
And who knew that a “p” could wear a hat?
Who created this thing called Biostat?


November 2003


welcome to the survivors of biostats one

welcome to the survivors of biostats one
first term ended, a new one begun.
revitalized and refreshed, our hearts aglow
but wait – weren’t we just in these seats four days ago?

we must now put the horrors of last term’s final behind us
with only the shreds of broken egos to remind us
of our futile efforts and increasing frustration
as we struggled to describe that mysterious population.

new numbers and letters, concepts and terms,
new formulas and diagrams – will they ever get learned?
through the confusion, the overheads will fly by
and we won’t know whether to laugh or cry.

dr. d will look up with her pleading gaze
trying to jolt us out of our haze
we get the feeling she’s wondering if we’re really that slow
as she nods and she smiles and pretends that we know.

here we are again…did we get a break?
the days blur together; it’s too much to take.
the equations mount, the work it grows
two months down…only four to go.

monika dutt

November 2003


The Outlier

Outlier, Outlier
What do you say?
“I’m part of the data,
Don’t throw me away!

I’m kept out by fences,
And left in the trenches.
It doesn’t seem fair
That I’m surrounded by air!

Young Analyzer,
Please listen to me,
I have great power you see.

I can affect the mean
Without making a scene.
I can dance with the stars,
But I’m not from Mars!

Those boxes and whiskers
Have forgotten their sisters.
Despite what they say,
I’m really ok.

Though now I must rest,
I hope for the best.
You have heard my plea,
So don’t forget about me!”

Donna Windish

November 2003


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Last edited: 10 February, 2015