Yesterday, I posted a list of links that I shared with my class this semester. I left one off. I have quite a few pre-med students, so I like to talk about medical applications when necessary. I shared a brief history of evidence-based medicine with my students, as conveniently summarized in a Business Week article. The article is about David Eddy, the medical doctor turned operations researcher who transformed how medicine is practiced by using more math. The article begs for more OR to be applied to health care applications:
The human brain, Eddy explains, needs help to make sense of patients who have combinations of diseases, and of the complex probabilities involved in each.
The article describes many of the challenges in the medical domain as well as some of the benefits of using advanced analytical methods for approaching medicine.
[Eddy’s] PhD thesis made front-page news in 1980 by overturning the guidelines of the time. It showed that annual chest X-rays and yearly Pap smears for women at low risk of cervical cancer were a waste of resources, and it won the most prestigious award in the field of operations research, the Frederick W. Lanchester prize. Based on his results, the American Cancer Society changed its guidelines.
The recent changes in how we screen for prostate cancer and breast cancer are part of Eddy’s legacy. They are controversial, but few medical treatments have been proven in clinical trials (the article estimates this could be as low as 20%).