What Health Data Scientists Can Learn from Rick and Morty?

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Author: Dr Raphael Olaiya: Doctor and health data scientist

This article is cocktail of 4 things 1. Watching too much of the Netflix show Rick and Morty. 2. A data scientist 3. A doctor 4. Too much spare time

At times, we get:

‘Sometimes science is more art than science’

Other times, we get:

‘Listen, Morty, I hate to break it to you, but what people call “love” is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed’

Layers of allegoric meaning; the deeper you go the cleverer the message and where do these quotes come from? None other than the infamous Rick Sanchez of Rick and Morty. That egotistic, narcissist, sociopath is one of the most liked and inspirational characters of all time.

The complex personality of Rick makes him a professional role model(to some degree) for almost every professional in the world. Are you a scientist? Rick can be your role model? Doctor? Rick again. Philosopher; guess who again? And in case you are a health/life sciences data scientist, there is still something you can learn from Rick. In fact, there’s a whole lot you can learn from Rick.

Health and Data Science:

A little bit of recap never hurts anyone right? Health Data science is an emerging field that is a unique yet meaningful amalgamation of health sciences, epidemiology, critical thinking, design thinking, management skills, statistics, mathematics, and computer science.

So basically these people can handle large data pertaining to health science. So what can Health Data Scientist possibly learn from Rick and Morty?

Lessons for Health Data Scientist from Rick and Morty:

1. Rick is Scientifically Driven:

No matter what you say about Rick, his each and every step is scientifically calculated. If you remember that episode where he was captured by the galactic federation for committing everything (season 2 last episode); he actually does that just so he can escape and take out two of his greatest enemies. For health data scientists, it is imperative that they are also driven by the notion of: utilizing a broad spectrum of abilities and skills in a manner that attributes to a pin point specific goal driven, metric orientated progress and/or scientific academic progress.

You don’t necessarily have to publish a paper-based upon each action you take, rather, as a health data scientist, you need to be primarily focused on how important decisions are augmented by the data science. You have the power of statistics and high throughput computing on your side, use that to calculate each move you make. You are a problem solver and the ability to solve problems demands mathematical precision.

Putting it to practical use, working in health informatics/data science demands a variety of problems to be resolved in various settings that may arise in the form of:

· Clinical challenges.

· Management challenges

· Financial challenges

· Utilisation or up-gradation of IT processes.

· Resolving inter-departmental challenges.

· Leading multidisciplinary team/s.

There is also a consistent need to improve the sharing of accurate patient data between the institutions involved in the whole cycle of healthcare provision ranging from hospitals to insurance; a data scientist must be equipped with comprehensive knowledge of the culture of health informatics and that dictates their every move.

2. Rick Knows When to Compromise with Others:

Ok, this may not be one of the strongest suits of Rick, but we have seen it in multiple episodes where Rick didn’t just have to compromise with others but he played well with them ( season 3 episode 4 Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender). Even if he didn’t, he made sure that he was able to adapt well to his surroundings and make his way out of a situation no matter how bad things got.

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Similar to that, a health data scientist must be enriched with intrapersonal skills that allow them to interact with others as effectively as possible. Basic abilities such as:

· Being able to work in a team.

· Empathy towards their colleagues.

· Ability to resolve complex conflicts.

· And flexibility.

These are regarded as fundamental characteristics and intrapersonal traits for health data scientists. In an environment where teamwork holds its place as a quintessential factor for success, the collaboration between clinical staff, upper management (directors, CEO, etc.), and other professionals holds utmost significance.

This is not a field where you can work alone. Even Rick has his contacts distributed throughout the multiverse, your situation pales in comparison to Rick (well it does, doesn’t it?). A health data scientist serves as a bridge between different departments and even outside the institution/organization. So the ability to compromise and reach a consensus is a must.

Ricks is Scientifically Equipped:

It’s like saying the sky is blue. Whether it is or not is another debate but the point is, saying that Rick is scientifically equipped to make statements like this is just stating the obvious. His ego is so great that he claims to be the most brilliant and smartest person in the universe which has turned him into a nihilistic and pessimistic jerk who utilizes his scientific and mathematical prowess to emerge safely out of any situation. What else do we expect from that agnostic polymath who is always a few dozen moves ahead of others? Similar to Rick, a health data scientist is also not just scientifically equipped but also capable of APPLYING their intrinsic knowledge pertaining to mathematics, stats, epidemiology, and life science subject matter expertise(whichever it maybe) in accordance with the desired situational goals. But the skillset of a health data scientist can’t be confined merely to the above-stated domains; rather, a health data scientist is skilled in programming as well. By no means is programming easy, but manipulation of data and developing insightful visualisations from it required a health data scientist to be a multi-domain specialist. In essence, a health data scientist is also a polymath who has command over multiple domains all of which boil down to effective utilisation of data and extracting meaningful results from it.

Rick has Excellent Communicational Skills:

Well…sort of. I mean whatever it is that Rick has to say, he says it in a manner that is indisputably agreed on by all others. He knows exactly what to say when to say it, how to say it, and most importantly, the message is clearly understood by anyone he is conserving with. There is a flow in his words that set him apart from the rest. Not that there is any other protagonist of the show (besides Morty) as smart as him. Putting it into context, Rick is an excellent communicator and not afraid of saying the right thing. A health data scientist’s job is not to break the bad news to the family of the patient, rather, they break the news to management personnel and different clinical, research or operational departments. So they don’t have much emotional pressure on them per se but being the tipping point when it comes to critical decision making another type of stress ensues. Effective communication is an extremely fundamental skill for any profession and health data science is no exception. The field requires dealing with complex information like large hospital revenue reports, patient-specific genomic data, or clinical data sets; as important as it is to efficiently manipulate, collect, and manage data, it is equally important to clearly and accurately communicate this data. This also involves the ability to listen carefully.

Rick Always has the Right Skill Set:

  • Inventing inter-dimensional time machine transporters OR Deployment of digital products into physical systems.
  • Collating and processing galaxies' worth of data OR Data Analysis.
  • Building adaptive space-age holographic data dashboards OR Data Visualisation.
  • Building super AI predictive biological androids OR Statistical Data Modeling.

Furthermore, a health data scientist must have command over the structured query language (may vary from organisation to organisation), competency in ETL (Export, Transform, Load) data processes, and proficiency in business intelligence reporting.


There is a lesson for everyone in Rick and Morty. Sure, the guy is a sociopath and an extremely narcissistic anarchist, but there are valuable lessons that not just health data scientists but we all can learn.

Contact details raphael.olaiya@nhs.net

Doctor, Health Data Scientist and Technology Idealist. London.

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