Biostatistics

“Biostatistics at GHRI can have a big impact because the new methods we develop can be readily evaluated and applied in health care on a national scale.”

Jennifer Nelson, PhD
Group Health Research Institute Senior Investigator
Director of Biostatistics 

Research overview

High-quality health care research depends on high-quality biostatistics: Without it, conducting scientifically sound studies would be like trying to assemble a puzzle without having all the right pieces. The Biostatistics Unit at Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) develops, improves, and applies rigorous statistical methods that enhance the quality of research at Group Health and nationwide.

National consortia

GHRI biostatisticians help lead several national consortia that are developing innovative methodological approaches to benefit public health, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Sentinel Initiative. “We help the FDA overcome analytic challenges in using health care databases to conduct post-market safety surveillance, developing new methodological approaches that allow rapid safety surveillance of new medical products,” Dr. Nelson said. (See our feature story: "Group Health researchers help the FDA get proactive.")

Another such project is the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory, which supports several pragmatic clinical trials that take advantage of large health systems’ existing data resources to efficiently produce results that better reflect real-world care. Dr. Cook is developing new methods for these clinical trials that use data from EHRs and other existing data systems. “Without new methods, interpreting findings from pragmatic clinical trials wouldn’t be feasible,” she explained. “You need different methods and a whole new approach to trial design to test interventions that will work in a real-world setting.”

As a co-investigator on the Mental Health Research Network (MHRN), Associate Investigator Susan Shortreed, PhD, helps design research ranging from comparative effectiveness and safety studies to predicting outcomes over time based on patient and provider characteristics and treatment choices. Leveraging the rich data resources available from the 13 health systems involved in the MRHN, Dr. Shortreed also leads analyses of EHR data to understand who is at risk for suicide attempt. “Our long-term goal is to improve mental health care by using EHR data to identify which depression treatments will work best for which people” she said.

GHRI biostatisticians also play an integral role in influential research on cancer screening and prevention. Senior Investigator Diana Miglioretti, PhD, who is also the Dean’s professor in biostatistics at the University of California, Davis, co-leads the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC)—the nation’s largest collection of information on breast cancer screening. GHRI researchers are also at the forefront of two national collaborations focused on understanding and improving colorectal cancer screening processes: the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET) and Population-based Research Optimizing Screening through Personalized Regimens (PROSPR).

Seattle Symposium

With the use of electronic health record (EHR) data for research rising, methodological rigor is more important than ever. That’s why Associate Investigator Andrea Cook, PhD, and Jennifer Nelson, PhD, GHRI’s director of biostatistics and a senior investigator, joined with Patrick Heagerty, PhD, a GHRI affiliate investigator and chair of the University of Washington Department of Biostatistics, to organize the 1st Seattle Symposium on Health Care Data Analytics. Held in September 2014, this first-of-its-kind event brought together scientists from across the country to discuss the statistical challenges of using EHR data for health research and to explore new methods to overcome those challenges.

“The symposium presented a variety of expert perspectives on what future studies in this arena will look like and how EHRs can be best leveraged to answer important health research questions,” Dr. Heagerty said.

Through the symposium and the many ongoing projects at GHRI, our biostatisticians continue to improve the rigor with which health scientists address important public health and health services questions. “We have an incredibly strong group, including many very talented master’s-level statisticians who help apply and adapt statistical methods to real-world situations—an asset that is rare in most academic research settings,” Dr. Nelson said.

Recent publications on Biostatistics

Coleman KJ, Haneuse S, Johnson E, Bogart A, Fisher D, O'Connor PJ, Sherwood NE, Sidney S, Theis MK, Anau J, Schroeder EB, O'Brien R, Arterburn D. Long-term microvascular disease outcomes in patients with type 2 diabetes after bariatric surgery: evidence for the legacy effect of surgery. Diabetes Care. 2016 Jun 6. pii: dc160194. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Sawchuk CN, Roy-Byrne P, Noonan C, Bogart A, Goldberg J, Manson SM, Buchwald D. The association of panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and major depression with smoking in American Indians. Nicotine Tob Res. 2016 Mar;18(3):259-66. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntv071. Epub 2015 Apr 6.

Drewnowski A, Aggarwal A, Cook A, Stewart O, Moudon AV. Drewnowski et al. respond. Prev Med. 2016 Feb 5. pii: S0091-7435(16)00038-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.01.024. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Smith-Bindman R, Miglioretti D. Cell-free DNA analysis for noninvasive examination of trisomy. N Engl J Med. 2015 Dec 24;373(26):2581. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc1509344#SA1.

Shortreed SM, Laber E, Pineau J, Murphy SA. Imputing missing data from sequential multiple assignment randomized trials. In: Moodie EEM, Kosorok MR, editors. Adaptive Treatment Strategies in Practice: Planning Trials and Analyzing Data for Personalized Medicine. Philadelphia: SIAM; 2015. p.178-230.

Researchers in Biostatistics

Jennifer C. Nelson, PhD

Director of Biostatistics; Senior Investigator
206-287-2004
nelson.jl@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Diana L. Miglioretti, PhD

Senior Investigator
206-287-4266
miglioretti.d@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Andrea J. Cook, PhD

Senior Investigator
206-287-4257
cook.aj@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Susan M. Shortreed, PhD

Associate Investigator
206-287-2088
shortreed.s@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Jennifer F. Bobb, PhD

Assistant Investigator
206-287-2190
bobb.j@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Melissa L. Anderson, MS

Senior Biostatistician
206-287-2647
anderson.melissa@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Laura E. Ichikawa, MPH

Senior Biostatistician
206-287-2395
ichikawa.l@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Onchee Yu, MS

Senior Biostatistician
206-287-2389
yu.o@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Eric Johnson, MS

Biostatistician
206-287-2105
johnson.ex@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Rod L. Walker, MS

Biostatistician
206-287-2895
walker.rl@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Robert D. Wellman, MS

Biostatistician
206-287-2557
wellman.r@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Weiwei Zhu, MS

Biostatistician
206-442-5215
zhu.w@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Rebecca Y. Coley, PhD

Assistant Investigator
coley.r@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Joseph E. Glass, PhD

Assistant Scientific Investigator
206-287-4266
glass.j@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)