Rao’s Rational Medical Decision Making: Just Right for Med School

Rao's Rational Medical Decision Making: A Case-Based ApproachRao’s Rational Medical Decision Making (MDM): A Case-Based Approach by Lange is a narrative textbook on biostatistics. Chapters include A Brief History Lesson, Biostatistics for Medical Decision Makers, Scientific Approach to Diagnosis, Design of Research to Evaluate Therapies, Understanding the Results of Studies of Therapies, Etiology, Survival, Systematic Reviews, Decision Analysis, and Clinical Practice Guidelines.

Within these chapters is a comprehensive review of biostatistics in an applied fashion.  Whether it’s T-tests or ANOVA or Chi-squared tests, you’ll find realistic applications and examples to help you understand and to fortify your learning.  Even if you plan to do a masters degree in epidemiology or PhD and need in-depth knowledge of statistics, you would still find this book a good starter or review of the main biostatistics concepts with relevant examples.

This book does not take the traditional “textbook” format.  Given that the book takes the narrative format, it does not present information in a bland, isolated manner where synthesis and understanding of the information are secondary to (and seems less important than) information overload.  Rather, Rao’s MDM is a narrative and all the relevant information is presented with equally applicable case examples.  The major concepts, from T-tests to ANOVA to research design are paired with exemplary cases in which Rao helps med students learn biostatistics through realistic and practical examples.

In the narrative format, Rao’s Rational Medical Decision Making is easy to read, easy to understand, and yet still provide all the information you’ll need as a medical student to succeed in biostatistics.  Of course, if you dive below the depth of the main concepts, then you may need help from some supplementary sources. But for the purpose of medical school biostatistics and the USMLE Step 1, this book is perfectly sufficient and is, in fact, quite a comprehensive book for the beginner medical scientist or a great review for the intermediate medical student biostatistician.  The practice questions at the end of each chapter can help any reader solidify concepts and practice real problems.

The downside about this book is that it is not a textbook.  Since it is much more focused on the application of biostatistics, it is less focused on providing every nit-picky detail (in biostatistics in case you are the person who likes to learn everything about everything).  This book also does not go that far in depth for the math genius who wants to learn the theories, derivatives, and fundamental basis of the biostatistics formulas/concepts.  Furthermore, because the book is a narrative, it does not present information in a condensed manner, because interspersed between major and minor concepts are examples that are meant to help explain the application of the concepts.  So if you are looking for a five page hyper-condensed review booklet, this book is not that.

I would definitely recommend Rational Medical Decision Making as it was well written, concise, and relevant, making it an adequately comprehensive starter or review book for biostatistics.


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