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July/August 2012


Newly Elected to WSS Board

The Washington Statistical Society was privileged to have an exceptional slate of candidates who volunteered their services and stood for election to the WSS Board this year. We would like to thank each of the candidates for volunteering despite the many other responsibilities they have. I would also urge each of you to consider whether you could serve the statistical community in the Washington area by volunteering for some activity with the WSS. If you are willing to serve in any capacity, please email President Keith Rust at KeithRust@westat.com and let him know. There are always a host of activities that need volunteers.

We would like to congratulate the members who were elected based on the votes of the membership. They will join with the remaining members of the Board beginning this summer.

Congratulations to the newly-elected Board members!

President — Nancy Bates

Methodology — Dan Liao

Representative-at-Large — John Finamore, Donsig Jang

Treasurer — Jane Li

– J. Michael Brick, Past-President and Chair of the Nomination Committee

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In Memory of Dr. Lester "Randy" Curtin

Lester Curtin

August 4, 1951 — June 20, 2012

On June 20th our beloved friend and colleague, Dr. Lester Curtin, passed away after battling cancer. Dr. Curtin, or "Randy" as he was known, was a devoted husband, father and CDC/NCHS bio-statistician. He is survived by his wife, Sally and their two children, Kevin and Daniel. He is also survived by three children from his first marriage, Jennifer Lynn and her husband Brian, Kimberly, and Steven. He is also survived by three brothers, grandchildren, nephews, and a niece.

Randy was a uniquely qualified and gifted individual. He was a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, an expert on sample design and analytic issues, an athlete, a mentor, and a trusted friend. His intellect, gentleness, wit and humor, good nature, smile, warm heart, and indomitable spirit will be missed.

Randy was born in Trenton, New Jersey as one of four boys. His family lived in several different States and even in Panama for a few years as his dad was relocated during his career with the IRS. At an early age he was proficient in academics, frustrating and confounding his teachers by finishing his class work and tests too quickly. He was also a member of the varsity wrestling team. After high school he entered the University of North Carolina (UNC) as an undergraduate where he continued to excel academically and to wrestle. After completing his Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics, Randy entered graduate school to continue his studies and earned a Doctorate in bio-statistics in 1978. While at the UNC he taught and mentored many fellow students. It would be remiss to mention that Randy was a Tar Heel through-and-through and would never miss a Tar Heel basketball game.

As an adult Randy became an avid runner displaying persistence and discipline as an endurance athlete. Randy participated in races and marathons. As only Randy would do, he decided to support a friend running an ultra-marathon, and without training, ended up completing the 50- miler with his friend. A feat he would repeat several times. Professionally, Randy was a recognized expert for his work on childhood growth charts, longitudinal studies, standardized statistical software, vital statistics, and the design of complex sample health surveys. In the later 1970's Randy started working at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in the Mortality Statistics Branch (MSB). The MSB was responsible for the production of the Monthly Vital Statistics Report, the annual volumes of Vital Statistics of the United States, implementation of the Ninth Revision of the ICD, and the decennial life tables for 1979-81. Randy made major contributions to these efforts, which resulted in analytically profound changes in the way mortality data was analyzed on a monthly and annual basis, and the way in which analytic methodologies were documented in technical notes. Randy was also instrumental in developing new methodologies to detect changes in mortality trends based on monthly provisional data, and to depict state variation in mortality by cause of death. During the early 1990's, Randy was asked to serve as Acting Director of the Division of Vital Statistics, where Randy had launched his professional career. He arrived at DVS facing a number of challenges; all of which he handled with his special and unique skills in the subject matter, in management, mentorship, and diplomacy.

Randy revised the methods for computing annual life tables (as released by CDC) and in particular he introduced methods for computing standard errors for the life table functions. His statistical research on direct standardization of rates resulted in CDC adopting a new standard population for mortality data in 2000, replacing the long used 1940 standard population. In a somewhat different area, but also similar to the above, Randy's insights for the development of standardized statistical software for use with complex sample surveys led to the development of SUDAAN by the Research Triangle Institute.

After leaving MSB, Randy served as the Chief of the Statistical Methods Staff in the Office of Research and Methodology (ORM); he also served as the Acting Director of ORM for several years. While Randy served in ORM, he worked tirelessly to mentor the ORM staff, displaying his strengths as a superb statistician and manager. During this period, Randy was instrumental in the redesign of National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). In addition, he revised the methodological underpinnings of the U.S. Childhood Growth Reference charts based on NHANES data. He applied his statistical expertise to provide expert guidance on the use of appropriate statistical methods for development and interpretation of the national growth curves that are used by physicians throughout the U.S. to track and monitor the growth of children.

Later in his career, Randy moved to the Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys as the lead survey statistician. Randy was instrumental in the myriad statistical issues of NHANES where he led the effort on analytic guidelines, weighting, redesign, calibration studies, and general statistical consulting. Further, Randy led the design effort for the National Institute of Child and Human Development's (NICHD) National Children's Study; the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's New York City Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; and he consulted on the design of the California Environmental Contaminants and Bio-Monitoring Program, Canadian Health Measures Survey, Oregon Health Study, and the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin.

Randy always had an open door policy. He was available to help on the most complex statistical issue, provide advice on a thesis / dissertation / manuscript, to design a study, or to speak about his UNC Tar Heel basketball team. He would work through your problem, derive a solution, and then explain it in plain English. He was a master at teaching.

– Ed Sondik (NCHS)

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Congratulations Award Winner!
2012 Gertrude Cox Award

The Washington Statistical Society (WSS) and RTI International are pleased to announce that Amy Herring, Associate Professor, Department of Biostatistics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been chosen as this year's recipient of the Gertrude M. Cox Award. Since receiving her ScD in Statistics from the Harvard University in 2000, Dr. Herring has made many noteworthy contributions in biostatistical analysis, specifically in the use of Bayesian methods to shed light on a number of important health issues such as the relationship between prenatal indicators and birth outcomes. She received the Award at the WSS Annual Dinner Meeting and gave the Keynote Address, "Beyond age at first sex: modeling patterns of emerging sexual behavior in adolescents and young adults".

The Award celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Established in 2003 through a joint agreement between WSS and RTI, the award recognizes statisticians in early to mid-career who have made significant contributions to statistical practice.

The award is in memory of Gertrude M. Cox (1900-1978), who in the 1950s, when Head of the Department of Experimental Statistics at North Carolina State College, played a key role in establishing Mathematical Statistics and Biostatistics Departments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Statistical Division at the then newly founded not-for-profit RTI. She served as president of the ASA in 1957.

his award is made possible by funding from RTI, and the recipient is chosen by a six person committee - three each from RTI and WSS. This year's committee from RTI consists of Marcus Berzofsky, Phil Kott, and Karol Krotki (Co-Chair), and from WSS Jonaki Bose(Co-Chair), Michael Brick, and Keith Rust. The award consists of a $1,000 honorarium, travel expenses to attend the WSS dinner, and a commemorating plaque containing the WSS logo. Past recipients have been, in chronological order: Sharon Lohr, Alan Zaslavsky, Tom Belin, Vance Berger, Francesca Domenici, Thomas Lumley, Jean Opsomer, Michael Elliott, and Nilanjan Chatterjee.

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Note From The WSS NEWS Editor

Items for publication in the September 2012 issue of the WSS NEWS will be accepted until the 15th day of the preceding month.

Email items to wss.editor@gmail.com.

Please submit all materials in MS WORD or plain text.

Please do not submit your items in pdf or include them in the body of an email.

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Click here to see the WSS Board Listing (pdf)
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