Section Newsletter
Winter 2008

Message From the Chair


2008 should be an exciting year! It’s the 100th anniversary of the Statistics Section (101st year, actually, starting in July), and we plan to celebrate it in style at the Annual Meeting in San Diego. Marcia Testa is heading up the planning group. We’ve come up with lots of ideas but can always use more. Please send her an e-mail if you have suggestions of your own, or if you’d enjoy helping plan the celebration. Marcia’s address is


One of the highlights of my term last year as Program Chair was working with the organizers of, and participants in, the invited paper sessions. Even though the official deadline for contributed papers has passed, there is still plenty of time to organize an invited paper session.


If you have ideas for invited paper sessions, or think you might be able to contribute a paper to one, let us know (send a note to Jim Leeper at Like the statistical associations, we welcome methodology papers. But we also welcome a broader range of application-oriented papers than you might find in a purely statistical meeting, which is one of the things that makes it fun to belong to APHA.


We’re looking for nominations for next year’s officers and committees. You’ll find descriptions and a listing of current officers on the APHA Web site. But all you really need to know is that we welcome anyone who’s interested, regardless of age or specialty area, that we’re fun to work with, and that you can nominate yourself for any position. There are plenty of jobs to do, both simple and more challenging, but they’re all rewarding in the end. If you’re interested, e-mail me ( or Nominations Chair David Williamson (


Special thanks go to Andy White, who spearheaded our (successful) attempt to institute Multiple Section Memberships. You can now join other APHA Sections and participate as a full member in all of their activities. Just as important, you can recruit your friends and colleagues into the Statistics Section — and I definitely encourage you to do so! This is one of several ways that you can help increase the size — and ultimately, the effectiveness — of the Statistics Section.


Of course, another way that you can help us build our membership is to recruit your colleagues at work. They don’t need to have statistics degrees!  In my own view, the typical member of our Section is someone who uses statistics in some way, and who wants to see it used in a way that supports improved human health.


If it’s not already obvious from what you’ve read above, here’s a short list of some of our goals for the next 12-24 months:


·         Plan and celebrate a first-class 100th Anniversary for the Section;

·         Increase the number of sessions, particularly invited paper sessions, that we present at the Annual Meetings;

·         Involve more of our members (especially new and younger members) in Section leadership positions;

·         Increase the size of the Section, reaching out to the broadest possible group of potential members.


I do hope you’ll help us work towards these goals. If you are moved to help out, I can promise you that you won’t regret your decision!


Martin Weinrich

136th APHA Annual Meeting: Public Health Without Borders

The 136th Annual Meeting will be held in San Diego from Oct. 25-29, 2008. Advance registration and housing is scheduled to open May 27, 2008. This year will be an especially exciting one for the Statistics Section, which will celebrate its 100th year anniversary.  You won't want to miss it!


The APHA Annual Meeting theme "Public Health Without Borders" will explore transnational public health and will provide a forum to address a diversity of topics including: immigrant and refugee health; water and land rights; coordinating disease surveillance and epidemiologic response activities across borders; air and water pollution management across borders; the international impact of trade, arms sales, tobacco sales and gun control policies; and the international transmission of socio-cultural behaviors with adverse health implications. This Annual Meeting could similarly provide a forum for a better understanding of the aspects of growing multiculturalism that promote healthy living and even to highlight and foster specific traditional practices that may serve to protect minority populations as they enter new environments.  To learn the latest on registering for the meeting and the program, visit APHA's official Web site at

100th Anniversary of the Statistics Section

In 1872, APHA was founded with vital statistics as the foundation since there was a clear need to improve disease classification, surveillance and vital events registration. In 1906, citing the need to develop a closer working relationship among registration officials, to promote more effective systems of vital statistics, to aid the adoption of uniform registration systems and to publish statistical data, Dr. Cressy Wilbur lobbied for the formal creation of a Vital Statistics Section at the APHA Annual Meeting in Mexico City.  Dr. Wilbur achieved final approval and formation of the Section during the 1907 Annual Meeting in Atlantic City, and the first official year of the APHA Statistics Section was completed in 1908. 


The 136th APHA Annual Meeting in San Diego (Oct. 25-29, 2008) will mark the 100th Anniversary of the Statistics Section. The Statistics Section has formed a 100th Anniversary Celebration Committee led by Marcia Testa ( and Larry Moulton ( to plan celebration activities and gala events.  If you are interested in getting involved or would like information, please contact Marcia or Larry.

Highlights from the Statistics Section Survey

METHODS:  An e-mail invitation to participate in the online survey was sent to all Section members in November 2007.  Of approximately 450 members, 129 responded (29%). 


DEMOGRAPHICS.  Survey responders had a wide age distribution: 9% under 30; 19% 30-39; 22% 40-49; 28% 50-59; and 22% 60 years or older.


Of those who responded, 76% held a doctorate, 17% masters, and 7% bachelors degrees; 63% have their highest degree in biostatistics or statistics.  The majority work in education (61%) or government (17%).  Most have a regular membership (77%).  The median years of membership was 7, and the mean was 12 (std dev = 13).  Approximately one half (51%) do not receive any financial assistance toward APHA membership from their employers; 23% have their membership and Annual Meeting attendance paid by their employers.



Most members have attended the APHA Annual Meeting at least once; 16% have never attended.  Approximately half (52%) have attended 1 – 6 times.


  • 68% have attended statistics sessions at APHA.
  • 48% have read the newsletter.
  • 44% have presented a paper or poster.
  • 38% attended section social events.
  • 34% attended Section business meeting.
  • 23% served as elected officer.
  • 19% have not participated in any activity.
  • The overwhelming majority (81%) have participated in at least one Section activity.



1 = Extremely Dissatisfied to 5 = Extremely Satisfied




Dissatisfied %

Neutral %



Statistics Section sessions at Annual Meeting





Section Newsletter





Section E-mail notices





Social events at the Annual Meeting





Leadership, service opportunities





Award / Recognition Opportunities





Networking opportunities





Section Web site





Opportunity to contribute to Newsletter





Career and Employment assistance






  • Most respondents were satisfied or neutral about all of the Statistics Section’s products and services. 
  • The services with the highest parentages satisfied were the sessions at the Annual Meeting, the newsletter, e-mail notices, and networking opportunities. 
  • Items where neutral received more votes than satisfied were social events at the Annual Meeting, leadership and service opportunities, award and recognition opportunities, Web site, opportunity to contribute to the newsletter, and career assistance.


The responses to the question about which products or services people wanted from the statistics section were:


  • 54% statistics short courses at Annual Meeting.
  • 34% breakfast or lunch at Annual Meeting.
  • 31% employment bulletin board in newsletter or on Web site.
  • 13% more opportunities to participate in Section governance.
  • 14% more frequent newsletter.
  • 21% checked none.

Regarding the Web site, 69% would like to see a listing of employment opportunities, and 23% would like information about Section leadership opportunities.


Respondents listed the following reasons for renewing their membership:

  • 40% Networking opportunities
  • 18% Low membership fee
  • 8% Employment opportunities
  • 5% Continuing education opportunities
  • 29% Other

The theme of the comments was that membership promotes professional growth and responsibility and helps one to stay informed about public health issues.


A more in-depth summary will be posted on the Statistics Section Web site in the near future. Survey designed and administered by William Pan. Analysis and summary provided by Brandy Sinco.

Student Corner: Professional Involvement – It’s Never Too Early to Start!

I know that as a student your life already feels pretty overwhelming.  Between classes and exams and writing your thesis and attempting to maintain some semblance of a life you’re probably already feeling like you need a 30-hour day.  Nevertheless, I am here to suggest adding yet another activity to your list:  professional involvement.  You may think that you have little or nothing to contribute to a professional organization, or that you should wait until you have graduated to join an organization, or perhaps you just feel intimidated by all those ‘professional’ statisticians.  Hopefully I can convince you that none of these excuses is accurate.


As statisticians we are fortunate to have a variety of professional organizations to which we may belong – the American Statistical Association, the Statistics Section of APHA (to which you hopefully already belong if you’re reading this newsletter), the International Biometric Society and its various regional groups, and any number of other more specialized societies.  All of these organizations are eager for student involvement and student input.  Even if it is early in your academic career, believe me, you have something to contribute simply by being young and eager and bringing fresh eyes to established issues and ideas.


It has been my experience in ASA, APHA and IBS that student members are welcomed with open arms and immediately made to feel at ease about their potential inexperience.  Not only can these societies provide the obvious professional networking that will help you to get established in your career, but I have always found them to be a wonderful way to get reinvigorated about my own research.  Whenever I am beginning to feel a bit burned out on my own work, attending a conference or taking a break to write an article such as this one never fails to remind me of all the reasons why I enjoy statistical work.


I would urge students to check out the Web sites of various professional organizations and skim some of the more user-friendly journals published by each one (such as the American Journal of Public Health, Amstat News, The American Statistician, the Biometric Bulletin, etc.) to identify the organization(s) that seems best suited to your interests.


I would also urge those ‘intimidating’ professional statisticians to continue to look for ways to involve more students – lower student fees and student funding opportunities are a great start.  But we should also have more journal clubs where students are exposed to these various publications and more informal opportunities to discuss with students just what happens at conferences and meetings and the numerous opportunities that exist for students like me to get more involved and feel a part of their professional organizations.

Statistics Section Officers

The current officers of the Statistics Section are as follows:


Chair: Martin Weinrich, PhD

Chair-Elect: James Leeper, PhD

Immediate Past Chair: G. David Williamson, PhD


Secretary: Amy Donaldson, MS

Secretary-Elect: Janet Eyster, PhD


Section Council: Diane Makuc, DrPH; Linda Marc, ScD; John Hall, MS, JD; Al Ozonoff, PhD; Amy Ferketich, PhD; Bill Pan, DrPH


Student Assembly Liaison:  Megan Price


Governing Council:  Frank Potter, PhD, & Marcia Testa, PhD


See the Section Web site,, for more detailed contact information for Section officers. The site also highlights other individuals who continue to play a significant leadership role within the Section. Thank you all for your hard work and continued leadership!

Spotlight on Chair-Elect James Leeper, PhD


Jim Leeper was born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa. After obtaining his B.S. degree from the University of Iowa in physics and astronomy in 1967 and one year of graduate work in astrophysics at the University of Indiana, he served in the Air Force from 1968-1972. After returning to the University of Iowa, he obtained his PhD in biostatistics in 1977 under the mentorship of Dr. Skip Woolson. His dissertation was in the area of missing data problems in longitudinal studies, which continued to be a research interest for many years.


Since 1977 he has been with The University of Alabama School of Medicine - Tuscaloosa Campus, Department of Community and Rural Medicine and the Applied Statistics Program. He is the Rural Medicine Clerkship Director for third-year medical students, directing their work in community health assessments and projects. He is also the Director of Education and Evaluation for Rural Health Programs that train physicians to practice in rural Alabama. Much of his applied statistics work has dealt with rural health problems in Alabama. He teaches biostatistics courses at the graduate level for applied health students and serves on many dissertation committees. Lately he has directed three statistics PhD dissertations in the area of spatial-temporal analysis techniques using non-Bayesian procedures.


In APHA he served on the Program Development Board (1993-97), Joint Policy Committee (1994-97), Science Board (1997-2000), Education Board (1999-2003), and Governing Council (2000-2001) and as Section Counselor (2005-2007). In his current office as Chair-Elect, Jim has already been working on organizing the program for the 2008 Annual Meeting.


Jim is proud of his wife, Catherine Chen (who has a PhD in biostatistics from Emory University and is now retired), and his two daughters. The older daughter is finishing her PhD in genetics at Stanford University and the younger daughter is a first-year medical student in the University of Alabama School of Medicine - Birmingham. He also enjoys working with Tuscaloosa Children's Theatre as their treasurer.

2007 Annual Meeting Highlights

2007 Annual Meeting Highlights


The 135th APHA Annual Meeting was held in Washington, D.C. from Nov. 3-7, 2007. The theme of the meeting was Politics, Policy, and Public Health. Special thanks to those who worked so hard to make all aspects (program, booth, social events, business meetings) at the 2007 Annual Meeting a success!


Spiegelman Award Winner – David Dunson


The Spiegelman Award was established to honor demographer, actuary, and biostatistician Mortimer Spiegelman (1901-1969) for his exceptional contributions to public health statistics. This award is presented annually to an outstanding public health statistician under age 40. The 2007 Spiegelman Award winner honored at the recent APHA Annual Meeting was David Dunson, PhD. Dr. Dunson is a senior investigator at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and holds adjunct professor positions at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his PhD in 1997 from Emory University. His current methodological research interests focus on semi-parametric Bayesian methods for multivariate data and regression, functional data analysis, and uncertainty in hierarchical and latent variable models.


Dr. Dunson's research is motivated by collaborations in the areas of epidemiology, toxicology and machine learning. He has made substantial contributions to the reproductive health literature, publishing a series of papers investigating the relationship between covariates, including male and female age and biomarkers, and the day-specific probabilities of conception in the menstrual cycle. Results demonstrating fertility decline with male and female age have been widely cited. Recent work uses Bayesian decision-theoretic approaches to identify optimal rules for timing intercourse to achieve conception. His current work on semi-parametric Bayesian functional data analysis methods allow for joint modeling of random functions, such as hormone trajectories or weight gain curves, with other measurements. See for more information.


Statistics Section Award Recipients


Academic Award: Melvin Moeschberger, PhD, Division of Biostatistics, College of Public Health, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. Awarded in recognition of his contributions to survival analysis methodology, with a particular focus on human health data, for fostering and developing biostatistics and public health education programs, and for his commitment to improving public health through collaborations with epidemiology, medicine, nursing, dentistry and optometry.


Government Award: Joseph C. Gfroerer, BA, Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, Md.  Awarded in recognition of his dedication to promoting and maintaining methodological rigor in producing objective, accurate, and timely estimates of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use in the individual states, as well as in the nation, and for helping improve state-level and federal planning for effective prevention and treatment programs.



Industry Award: Karl Peace, PhD, professor of biostatistics, Jiann-Ping Hu College of Public Health, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Ga. Awarded in recognition of his leadership in philanthropy and his unstinting, selfless service in developing and overseeing biostatistics and public health educational and outreach programs, particularly the Biopharmaceutical Applied Statistics Symposium, which he founded and then chaired for 14 years.



Lowell Reed Lecture


The Lowell Reed Lecture was given by Scott L. Zeger, PhD. Dr. Zeger's presentation was entitled "Biostatistics: Reflections on what Lowell Reed might have thought about where it is and where it is headed."  Both humorous and insightful, Dr. Zeger's lecture was very much enjoyed by those in attendance.


Dr. Zeger is the chair and inaugural Frank Hurley and Catharine Dorrier Professor for the Department of Biostatistics at The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. He received his BA in biology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 and his PhD in statistics from Princeton University in 1982.  He was named one of the top 25 most cited mathematical scientists of the past decade and is known for his research in statistical methods of time series and longitudinal studies. Dr. Zeger is perhaps most well-known for his work with Johns Hopkins colleague Kung-Yee Liang for creating the GEE method for the analysis of data from longitudinal, time series, genetic and other studies that produce correlated responses.  Dr. Zeger has made substantive contributions to environmental epidemiology, quantifying the health effects of smoking and air pollution and serving as statistical expert for the U.S. Justice Department and several states in their suits against the tobacco industry. He is also involved in clinical research, having served on the Board of Scientific Advisors to the Merck Research Laboratory and on the steering committee of the Hopkins Graduate Training Program in Clinical Investigations.


Social Hour and Dinner


Good times were had by all at the social events of the meeting, as evidenced by these pictures.




Celebrate National Public Health Week 2008 - "Climate Change: Our Health in the Balance"

The health effects of climate change will take center stage during National Public Health Week, April 7-13, 2008. As part of the weeklong observance, themed "Climate Change: Our Health in the Balance,"  APHA will lead the charge in helping people, communities and families recognize that adapting to climate change and mitigating its impact is critical not just for the health of our planet, but for the health of the people in our nation and around the world.


Changes in our climate are causing more severe weather events. Extreme weather conditions such as heat waves, high winds, snowstorms, floods and hurricanes have the potential to dramatically affect the health and safety of both individuals and our communities. Changing ecosystems allow for emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases such as dengue or malaria, which are changing the spectrum of disease risks affecting populations. In poorer parts of the world, drought and floods often force people to move away from lands no longer producing enough food, often resulting in hunger and malnutrition. Moreover, contaminated drinking water can result in outbreaks of diarrheal diseases, leading to dehydration or death.


Few Americans will ever see the melting Greenland ice cap up close, or interact with an arctic polar bear facing extinction as its habitat melts.  But local public health professionals around the country increasingly will be dealing with the impacts of climate change on the ground, every day. Join APHA as we work to create a healthier planet. Visit the official National Public Health Week Web site at to check out the climate change blog and brochure, sign up to be a National Public health Week partner, or add your week's event to the national calendar.  For more information about National Public Health Week, contact