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UofL math wizards provide analysis to advance health sciences

From historical origins in agriculture to contemporary applications in clinical interventions and pharmaceutical development, statistics is a corner stone of innovation and research. In light of the International Year of Statistics (Statistics 2013), the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences is recognizing the important role of biostatisticians in promoting better health, as faculty and students celebrate National Public Health Week April 1-7.

The impact of statistics is evident in one application by Department of Bioinformatics and Biostatistics Assistant Professor Doug Lorenz, PhD; his work has led to guidelines that help health care workers recognize child abuse. He analyzed the number, shape and location of bruises to confirm suspicion that bruising of the torso, ears, and neck in children younger than 4 years were signs of child abuse. This information spurred creation of the TEN-4 rule, used to help health care providers differentiate between bruises caused by non-accidental trauma and accidental trauma. Lorenz became involved in the project through the school’s Statistical Consulting Center (StCC), a service that supports health researchers and strives to provide expertise in statistical methods and information science.

“The school’s biostatistic group is one of our strongest departments; faculty are highly knowledgeable in a variety of statistical methods and modeling applications, and take a keen interest in training the next generation of statisticians to be ready for new waves of analytical challenges facing the country," said Craig H. Blakely, PhD, MPH, dean, UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences.

“Statisticians are instrumental in designing experiments to examine the validity of research hypotheses, inventing solidly grounded novel techniques to glean hidden information from complex data and making scientifically valid conclusions based on gathered information,” said K.B. Kulasekera, PhD, chair and professor, department of bioinformatics and biostatistics.

Somnath Datta, PhD, and Guy Brock, PhD – both biostaticians - have received grants that will support work in dental research.

In the United States, dental decay is a major chronic childhood disease, although understanding of various risk factors is limited. Through innovative statistical modeling, Datta hopes to identify new relationships between cavity incidences, severity and various potential risk factors.

Datta and his team also are using statistical analysis to evaluate the proper balance between the amount of fluoride needed to prevent tooth decay while also preventing fluorosis – the staining of a tooth’s enamel when exposed to too much fluoride.

Brock is working with dental researcher, Partha Mukhopadhyay, PhD, to better understand the molecular underpinnings governing orofacial development that may reveal potential mechanisms of clefting.

As a way to continue their participation in the International Year of Statistics, the Department of Bioinformatics and Biostatistics is hosting the Southern Regional Council on Statistics Summer Research Conference (SRC)  June 2-5, 2013 at Montgomery Bell State Park in Tennessee.

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