Dr Chris Palmer joined the University’s Department of Community Medicine (renamed ‘Public Health and Primary Care’ in 2000) in September 1991. Chris’ first degree was in Mathematics (Merton College, Oxford) before obtaining his Master’s and PhD in Statistics (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), where he was a Graduate Teaching Assistant, from 1982-88. His dissertation concerned a model for clinical trials, the design being ethically-motivated and using a decision-theoretic framework. Subsequently, he was a post-doctoral Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Department of Biostatistics, before returning to his native UK for a Lectureship at Reading University’s Department of Applied Statistics, immediately before moving to Cambridge.
Chris is founding Director of the Centre for Applied Medical Statistics (CAMS), initiated in 1996, funded by a grant from NHS R&D Executive/ Department of Health / NIHR. He is also on the Management Board for the East of England’s Research Design Services (RDS). To date, CAMS has hosted, typically 3-5 at a time, 20 statisticians (8 PhD, 12 MSc) plus occasional visiting researchers. CAMS runs, twice per year, up to a dozen 1-day or 2-day intensive courses for clinical researchers, with over 200 (most fully-qualified doctors) now being trained in statistics / research methods per annum. Consulting and collaborating since 1996 has led to over 300 publications co-authored by a CAMS statistician, while Chris’ personal tally since 1991 now exceeds 70.
In addition, he has around 20 first-author publications in his own research area at the interface of statistics and ethics in medical applications. This includes the design and use of data-dependent designs in randomised controlled trials, exact inference in public health applications and the statistical review processes of biomedical journals. The latter interest has arisen from extensive experience with the medical literature, including serving on the panel of statistical reviewers for The Lancet for well over a decade.
Chris’ teaching on behalf of the University ranges from first-year pre-clinical undergraduate to postgraduate MPhil courses. Medical statistics is in high demand with personal teaching (figures compiled from a recent academic year) across 7 courses, in 38 classes from 1-4 hours each, to over 575 different University students, comprising 84 contact hours and over 4,500 student hours. When including the four CAMS courses individually taught twice-yearly, plus statistics courses given at the invitation of Medical Schools overseas total contact hours exceed 200 hours per annum, and a further 150+ current and future clinical researchers are added to the numbers of people taught per year.
Outside the University, Chris acts, or has acted, as statistician to several academic or industry-sponsored study Data Monitoring Committees and Trial Steering Committees, including multinational trials in disease areas in paediatrics, cardiology and oncology. He has also served on numerous grant-awarding bodies, including the East of England Region’s Research for Patient Benefit Committee and presently the Health Research Board for Patient-Oriented Research Committee in the Republic of Ireland.
More generally, Chris co-edited, with Professor Brian Everitt, the major reference work ‘Encyclopaedic Companion to Medical Statistics’, published by Hodder Arnold in 2005, with second edition published by John Wiley in 2011. This task involved the commissioning of over 70 expert contributors worldwide to write over 400 comprehensive yet comprehensible articles spanning the entire range of the discipline. For five years (1996-2000) Chris served as a Deputy Editor, and for two of those years, Acting Editor, in the UK Office of the subject’s premier journal, Statistics in Medicine.
On the personal level, Chris married in 1989 and has three children, born 1994, 1997 and 2001. He is actively involved in a local church fellowship. He enjoys most of all spending time with his family, but also travelling, watching most team sports (notably number-dominated ones such as cricket); and most board and word games, and puzzles, as evidenced by his favourite anagram being, for ‘medical statistics’, “tactics amidst lies”; favourite palindrome: “Doc, note I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness, I diet on cod!”; favourite quotation, adopted as the CAMS motto: “To consult the statistician after an experiment is finished is often merely to ask him to conduct a post-mortem examination. He can perhaps say what the experiment died of.” (R.A. Fisher, 1938); and finally, favourite number: 153 (for the full reason why, only ask if you’ve got a spare half hour!)