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Letter to the Editor
Physician scientists should learn how to program
  1. Ben S Gerber1,
  2. Thomas Kannampallil2,
  3. Spyros Kitsiou3,
  4. Paul S Heckerling1
  1. 1Division of Academic Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  2. 2Department of Family Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  3. 3Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences, College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ben S Gerber, Division of Academic Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60608, USA; bgerber{at}uic.edu

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We live in a time with an abundance of clinical data. Federal investments have led to the development of research data networks for addressing clinical questions (eg, the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network,1 All of Us,2 and the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics Network3). Additionally, there is a growing trend towards public data sharing through initiatives by the National Institute of Health.4 Such sharing of data increases transparency of findings and provides opportunities for generating new hypotheses.5

Physician scientists may be best positioned for secondary analysis because of their clinical knowledge. However, many do not have programming and analytical skills to take full advantage of these opportunities. Analyzing existing data offers advantages: it is less time and resource intensive, and it can provide preliminary data for grant proposals.5 6 Despite these advantages, and given the limited availability of resources, secondary analyses remain uncommon among physician scientists.

Traditionally, physician scientists are trained in primary data collection to study clinical phenomena—often involving rigorous designs, patient-oriented interventions, and experimental manipulations. However, strong data management and analytical skills beyond primary data collection are required. Physician scientists must learn to design investigations involving all or part of publically available data, as well …

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