More Than a Number

Jeffrey WinchesterJeffrey Winchester is a senior programmer based at PPD’s headquarters in Wilmington, North Carolina.

As a programmer, I look at SAS code, data views, spreadsheets and a variety of other sources through the course of a day. At times, code will jumble together in my head and then unscramble to a logic that makes sense only in my brain as I begin to type it out. While drifting to sleep, I have tried solving program code in my head only to wake up in the morning to write it down. There are days you feel like code and numbers are all that you see. The data begins as a number in a database and ends up analyzed and displayed in an output window.

The beauty of what we do as part of the biostatistics team at PPD is that these numbers are more than just integers on a piece of paper. We have been trained that these numbers are important, and the accuracy of these numbers is the highest priority. Quality is critical, as I often say. Here is why.

These numbers aren’t just numbers, they represent real people -- real information about people. When we calculate the BMI [body mass index] of a treatment group, we are utilizing the data that real people have provided. Someone’s family member or friend has volunteered to be part of a clinical trial to help determine the safety and efficacy of a medicine. These patients may be struggling to stay alive, and we have the incredible opportunity to analyze their information. We produce safety tables to determine how safe a treatment is for the men and women receiving it. It is a scary truth of the work that we do. When we see the numbers as people, then we begin to get a healthy understanding of why our work is a privilege.

We could always show up each day to do our jobs, get a paycheck and call it day. Or we can take a moment to see that our work matters. That it is more than what we get back from the company. It is the fact that our work contributes to the clinical trial as a whole. The men and women who participate in the clinical trials deserve our best. They are more than a number.