The Department is extremely pleased to welcome four distinguished colleagues, including alumni and close collaborators with our summer pipeline programs, who will join our adjunct faculty and provide career mentorship for students and junior faculty from historically marginalized groups.
Scarlett Bellamy, Alumna, ScD ’01 – Adjunct Professor of Biostatistics
Professor of Biostatistics
Director of Graduate Studies in Biostatistics
Associate Dean, Diversity, Inclusion and Faculty Development
Aaron Foster, Alumnus, ScD ’00 – Adjunct Lecturer on Biostatistics
Business Analytics & Insights
DeJuran Richardson, Summer Program Advisory Board – Adjunct Professor of Biostatistics
Ernest H. Volwiler Professor of Mathematics
Chair, Department of Mathematics & Computer Science
Senior Advisor to the President
Lake Forest College
Alisa Stephens, Alumna, PhD ’12 – Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biostatistics
Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology
Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
We will be featuring interviews with each adjunct faculty member over the next few weeks.
DeJuran Richardson, PhD
What is your current position at your home institution?
I am the Ernest H. Volwiler Professor of Mathematics, Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, and Senior Advisor to the President at Lake Forest College, which is a liberal arts college located about 15 miles north of Chicago, in Lake Forest, IL. I am also an Adjunct Professor of Biostatistics (and former Director), Section of Biostatistics & Epidemiology, Department of Preventive Medicine, at Rush University Medical Center of Chicago.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I derive immense joy and satisfaction from being professionally active in multiple domains simultaneously. I am a passionate mentor and teacher of undergraduates, in a position to impact students at a particularly pivotal stage of their intellectual and professional development. As a senior faculty member and department Chair, I mentor and collaborate with faculty and scientists within my institutions and beyond, providing me with an ongoing source of learning and sharing. As a senior scientific investigator, I actively participate in the creative process of “knowledge production” and scientific investigation. Being able to meaningfully contribute within each of these domains is extremely gratifying and a source of immense joy.
What research are you currently working on?
Currently, my research activities center around being a senior scientific advisor for several national and international clinical research efforts, most of which are clinical trials funded by the National Institutes of Health. The Carotid Revascularization for Primary Prevention of Stroke Trial (CREST-2, PI: T. Brott) is two independent multicenter, multi-national, randomized, controlled trials of carotid revascularization and intensive medical management versus medical management alone in patients with asymptomatic high-grade carotid stenosis aimed at prevention of stroke and/or death. The Effectiveness of Family-Based Weight Loss Treatment Implemented in Primary Care Trial (PI: L. Epstein) tests the effectiveness of a behavioral weight control intervention targeting children who are overweight/obese and their parents to improve weight status. The Mediterranean-DASH for Neurodegenerative Delay Diet and Dementia Prevention in Ischemic Stroke Patients (MIND, PI: N. Aggarwal) multicenter clinical trial assesses the relative effectiveness of a dietary intervention coupled with personal health coaching in preventing cognitive and memory decline in adult stroke survivors. In each of these research collaborations, I assist by providing advice and oversight of study conduct and operations to ensure scientific and ethical integrity of the enterprise.
Where did you grow up? Can you point to something in your life that may have influenced your decision to study biostatistics?
I was born and raised on the great “south-side” of Chicago. Fearful of attending college too far from my home (lots of practical reasons for this!), I attended Northwestern University for undergraduate school and, as it worked out, for graduate school also. While actively pursuing the study of pure mathematics, I happened to attend a colloquium seminar given at Northwestern on group sequential methods and testing in clinical trials. The combination of sophisticated mathematics, practical application, and public health relevance was almost a “Damascus Road” experience for me. I rather immediately changed my curricular focus to statistics (I was still enrolled in the Math department and there really wasn’t a field called “biostatistics” at that time; even departments of statistics were only just beginning to become prolific).
Can you describe your educational and career pathway and any challenges you faced along the way?
During my last year of graduate school, I obtained a teaching position at Lake Forest College to earn a little money while I finished my dissertation. I was tired of being a cash-poor and energy-depleted college student and anxious to move-on to whatever was next. I finished my dissertation during my first year teaching at the college and was promoted to an assistant professor, fully prepared to stay on there. Lacking what I considered to be sufficient training as a research scientist and biostatistician, I sought and secured a postdoctoral fellowship in clinical biostatistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that then led to a lecturer and research assistantship in the Department of Biostatistics at HSPH, where I stayed for two years before returning to Chicago where I have resided since.
Through these events, I learned that my passion is multifaceted. I love teaching and mentoring undergraduates using mathematics and statistics as primary tools. I also love the scientific discovery process; using established principles to broaden “the envelope” and explore new ideas and propositions. Then, I also love the prospect of having a positive impact on human health, in a way that does not involve being a medical clinician. Through experience, I learned that I could simultaneously satisfy all three of these by crafting a joint faculty arrangement with an excellent and forward-looking liberal arts college and an equally excellent clinical research institution. I was fortunate enough to find such an arrangement, though it took more than a year to secure it.
Challenges I faced included being the only African American graduate student in Mathematics during all my ten years as an undergraduate and graduate student at Northwestern. Of course many of the challenges emanated from the view held by many that I did not belong there due to the hue of my skin, though no one was ever able to question my academic vitality or my standing. On a different level, my desire to be a vital undergraduate teacher and an equally effective research biostatistician was also challenged. “Why on earth pursue two diametrically opposed vocations?” was a frequent query, to which I would respond “just fulfilling my personal passions”.
How do you feel being Black impacted your educational and career opportunities and experiences?
There were many forces, systemic and human, that worked against folks like me even going to college, let alone pursuing the study of mathematics, going on to graduate school, finishing graduate school, becoming a college faculty member in science, and becoming an established clinical biostatistician. In my case, I was fortunate enough to be a product of the last vestiges of the “Affirmative Action” era in which there were targeted initiatives by the government and industry to provide opportunities to those who had been systematically and historically shut out. These opportunities were the by-product of the blood, sweat, and tears of generations of people who lived and struggled before I was even born. Even though I had to acquit myself well after walking through these opened doors, there were many opportunities in my past (bridge-programs between high school and college, college admission, college scholarships and financial aid, and even several internship opportunities as a college student) that represented open doors because I was Black. I proudly acknowledge and accept that truth, especially given the fact that so many others were actively prevented from even seeing such doors let alone being in a position to pry them open.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned or bit of wisdom you can impart to students or junior faculty from historically marginalized groups?
Especially for People of Color, life continues to be hard. No matter how well off you are, skin color continues to impact the daily lives of people living in this country. This is not conjecture; it is the reality of today’s existence. However, I believe this reality should not be used as an excuse for being anything less than your best.
If you really need to travel outdoors on a day that the outside air temperature is -5 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course), you do not simply allow yourself to become dejected and defeated. Instead, you opt to get prepared. You put on your hat; not just any hat, you get the serious hat. You put on the serious gloves, the serious boots, the serious coat. The challenging environment outdoors doesn’t and shouldn’t stop you from moving forward, it just affects how you equip yourself for the venture. Sure, life can be challenging, but such challenges often can be negotiated and defeated with the appropriate gear.