Name: David Lewis
Field of Work: Statistics for health and social sciences
Place of Birth: Canada
Job title: Senior Statistical Program and Policy Analyst
When we learn about health or medicine (or pretty much anything) there are often numbers and percentages associated with them. You know the stories or ads that say "27 per cent of patients saw an improvement", "Nine out of 10 dentists agree" etc.
So where do these numbers come from?
Well, in the case of child and youth mental health, probably David Lewis! David is a statistician for the Canadian federal government. He researches issues in the mental health world, crunches the numbers, and provides advice to the people who make decisions. If you love math and want to play an important part in government decisions about health and social science, then maybe becoming a statistician is the career path for you.
What is a Senior Statistical Program and Policy Analyst?
I manage high-profile policy and legislative work, doing statistical research and analysis focused on mental health for children and youth. I also tutor at a medical school after hours, focusing on movement control, the nervous system, and the brain and behavior (musculoskeletal, neurology, and psychology/psychiatry).
What is a typical day like for you?
My work includes project management, strategic planning, statistical evaluation, stakeholder liaising, research, analysis and monitoring, and preparation of submissions and briefings for government approval. It’s almost all computer-based, usually online, using highly specialized tools. There is a lot of travel in the province, including to some remote areas.
Did you always want to be a Statistical Program and Policy Analyst?
No. Working for the government was the last thing I wanted to do, but it turns out I like it a lot. Who knew? I had spent time in academics. Then I worked in health services research and enjoyed that immensely, but moved to government work after that.
What courses in high school prepared you for this field?
I am a high school drop out. I went to college and then to university as a mature student. Scientific method, social science and particularly statistics courses prepared me for this field.
Where did you go to university/college?
McMaster University for my MA and PhD
How did you decide where to go?
I visited several campuses that all “fit the bill” academically, and chose McMaster because of its welcoming feel.
Was there extra training required for this career after you finished college/university? If so, what?
Learning never stops. For instance, I have developed an interest in neurology lately. My workplace also offers short-term courses as part of its staff development program, and I use them a lot.
What is the coolest part of your job?
We have frequent “think tanks,” which can be amazing. Travel to remote areas in the province is also great.
What’s the worst part of your job?
What’s the salary range for this particular job and field?
$77,000 to $120,000 per year.
Ooooops! Everyone makes mistakes so what was the dumbest thing you've ever done at work?
I spent days working out a new model of behavior, but hadn’t checked the web — turns out it had already been done (and done better).
Any advice that you would give others seeking a similar career?
It takes a while to get here. It’s worth it.
What are some great web links or references for someone interesting in reading up more about this career?
Journal of Health Services Research & Policy
Canadian Science University Programs and Courses (See the link on Statistics)
37 Data-ish Blogs You Should Know About
Bill Trochim’s Research Methods Knowledge Base
McMaster Child Health Research Institute (MCHRI)
Tell us a funny (but clean) joke related to your profession (or a science joke).
If you took all the statisticians in the world and lined them up end to end, they’d never reach a conclusion.
What was the last book you read? Jam it or can it?
Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Excellent (but you have to give the series time).
What country would you most like to visit?
Chocolate or Vanilla?
What do you think is really at the end of a rainbow?