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Department of Quantitative Health Sciences embraces its dual mission: strengthening today’s biomedical research and training a fast-growing research workforce

Date: September 23rd, 2019 in Collaboration, Faculty, JABSOM News, Research, UH Manoa    Print or PDF

The faculty of the department pose on campus.

The faculty Department of Quantitative Health Sciences pose on the JABSOM Campus. Deborah Manog Dimaya photo.

By Tina Shelton, JABSOM Communications Director

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” -Henry Ford

The quote above, by Henry Ford, is one that inspires John Chen, Professor and newly appointed Chair of the Department of Quantitative Health Sciences and Director of the Biostatistics Core Facility at the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa (UHM) medical school. Fortunately for the school, Dr. Chen focused on the “think you can” part of the phrase when he was hired in 2011 to help build an in-house “critical mass” of quantitative experts. The task was challenging, as the Biostatistics Core in 2010 consisted of only one part-time biostatistician at the medical school. Fast-forward nine years, and today it has transformed into a fully functioning quantitative health sciences department, hosting two critical quantitative facility cores, the Bioinformatics Core and Biostatistics Core and a revamped Master of Science graduate program in Clinical and Translational Research, offering in both clinical research and quantitative health sciences tracks. Dr. Chen said he credits the vision and guidance of the medical school’s leadership and the dedication of the Department, faculty and staff for its success.

Chen headshot

John Chen, PhD

A trained biostatistician, Chen received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, after earning his Master’s Degrees in Biology, Applied Mathematics and Statistics from State University of New York at Stony Brook. He brings his passion for biostatistics and statistical education and collaboration with him to work at the UHM John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) every day.

“The Core Facilities have contributed to health research studies conducted in Hawaiʻi, which have the potential to directly impact the health and well-being of its residents,” said Dr. John Chen, Chair of Quantitative Health Sciences.

“Strong biostatistical design and data analytic support play a critical role in the long-term success of clinical and translational research and education enterprises, such as JABSOM,” said Dr. Chen. “Current biomedical research studies involve complex study designs and generate complicated multivariate data, which require quantitative expertise.”

The Biostatistics Core faculty and staff at work in the M.E.B.

The Core Facilities have collaborated with JABSOM clinical and basic science departments as well as many of the UH Mānoa health-related units, such as the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene, the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work and its Office of Public Health Studies, the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, and the UH Cancer Center. Its support of health-related research projects has also provided opportunities to collaborate with diverse health organizations across the island, such as The Queen’s Medical Center, Hawaiʻi Pacific Health, Kuakini Medical Center, and Veteran’s Affairs Pacific Island Health Care System.

A resource to meet workforce needs projected to grow sharply in this decade

Dr. Chen also believes the department’s Clinical and Translational Research Graduate Program is of strategic importance, because it trains clinical and quantitative health scientists to meet a growing workforce need in Hawaiʻi. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for mathematicians and statisticians will grow by 30% in the US between 2018 and 2028. The State of Hawaiʻi also projects a 9.6% growth rate for medical scientists from 2016 to 2026.

The Department of Quantitative Health Sciences is located at the UH JABSOM Kakaʻako campus (in the Medical Education Building Suite 411). “Our department faculty and staff collaborate closely with basic, clinical, and community researchers across the island. We try to make ourselves as accessible to researchers as possible and accommodate the schedules of researchers with consultations frequently conducted both at our offices and at various offices and research locations,” said Chen.

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