In the early 1960’s, Strother Walker, Tony Murphy (Edmund Anthony Murphy), Phil Archer and Trevor Williams (George Trevor Williams) shared an office as the group of superannuated graduate students recently admitted as doctoral candidates into the Department of biostatistics of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.
Strother had most recently been working for a military consulting firm in Washington, D.C. and was scheduled to return there on completion of his doctorate. He had a B.A. from Harvard and an M.A. in mathematics. Tony Murphy was an Irish M.D. with principal interests in genetics and clinical medicine. He continued to work in the Moore Clinic with Victor McKusick at the School of Medicine throughout his graduate studies. Phil Archer had come to Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in 1958 from Buffalo, N.Y. accompanying Abe Lilienfeld, M.D. to start a Division of Chronic Diseases, which was later merged into the Department of Epidemiology. He had a B.A. and an M.A. in mathematics from the University of Buffalo (which was, at that time, a private school, later subsumed (kicking and screaming) into the SUNY system of New York State.). Trevor had been working at the JHU Applied Physics Group.
All four received their doctoral degrees in 1965.
Johns Hopkins has two principal academic campuses. The main undergraduate and graduate campus is called Homewood, while the medically related schools are grouped at a different location.
During that period, Dick Jones, who had just received his doctorate from Brown University, came onto the faculty, with appointments both in the School of Hygiene and in a new statistics unit that had been formed at the Homewood campus. He taught at both campuses and collaborated with David Duncan, who was principally known for his theoretical work in multiple comparisons. Dick left after a few years to chair a Statistics Department at the University of Hawaii. He subsequently came to Colorado to teach and consult in this department until his retirement in 2004.
Strother was born and brought up in Denver. In the later 1960’s, when he was visiting relatives in Denver, he heard of a new Department of Preventive Medicine being formed in the Medical School with Conrad Riley M.D., a Pediatrician (and co-discoverer of the Riley-Day syndrome, a genetic disorder) as acting chairman, and Jock Cobb, M.D. as the newly hired Chairman. He evidently persuaded them that the new Department needed a statistical component, which he proceeded to form. His first recruitment was Tony Murphy, his former office mate, who was also addicted to hiking in the Colorado mountains. At about that time, Jim Murphy, who had just completed his master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Denver (after a bachelor’s in chemistry at the University of Chicago, was looking for a job, and was hired as a jack of all trades. He subsequently went to JHU and received his doctorate in 1977. After years of service in the department, and the attainment of full professor rank, he transferred to National Jewish Hospital, where, while retaining his university faculty status, he built up a large and productive statistical and data processing group.
As it turned out, unfortunately, Tony Murphy and Gordon Meikeljohn, Head of Medicine, did not see eye to eye, and Tony was denied clinical privileges. As a result, he returned to JHU in the genetics section at the Medical school, and remained there for the duration of his career.
The circumstances gave Strother the opportunity to replace Tony in the new section. Phil Archer [the author], on graduation, had gone to the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) in Hiroshima, Japan, to participate in a study sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences (which continues to this writing), of the medical consequences of exposure to the atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in August of 1944. He accepted the offer and arrived in Denver in 1968.
The next important addition to the Biometrics faculty was Gary Zerbe. He was still working on his degree from Ohio State University and Strother became a co-advisor. He had seriously considered making a career of studying butterflies, but probably his wife talked him out of it. She subsequently got her doctorate in mathematics. Gary was awarded his doctorate in 1973.
Written by Phil Archer, 20081
In the late 1960’s the Biometrics Division began teaching required courses in applied statistics to freshman medical students and (separately) freshman dental students. These continued for a number of years as routine requirements in both curricula. However, programs in academia are seldom considered as established until they have their own graduate programs. Toward this end, Strother began a dialogue with Franklin Graybill at Colorado State University (CSU). Frank had started and built a very strong statistics program some years prior to this, which was the only such program in the state, or, for that matter, in the geographical region. All of the extant faculty at the HSC and many at CSU collaborated to devise a program in which entering students would study theoretical statistics for two years at CSU for a master’s degree, and then come to the Health Sciences Center (HSC) for further exposure to areas of medical application in a vast variety of areas, such as: clinical trials, multivariate analysis, pediatric applications, genetic problems, etc. Although the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had been reducing its grant support at that time, we managed to get grant support for this program, and it turned out to be very successful, the graduates of it uniformly having successful careers in various areas of applied statistics. Even before the termination of that grant the graduate program continued to expand and, over the years, we have graduated scores of either master’s or doctoral students, all of whom have had no problems gaining professional employment in the health care system. In recent years, the program has seen further expansion to include graduate degrees in epidemiology.2
The early 2000’s was a period of preparation for the formation of a new school and department and a move to a new campus. During much of this period the Section of Biometrics was headed by Anna Barón and the MS and PhD programs directed by Dick Jones. A number of new primary teaching faculty were hired in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, including Sam MaWhinney, Diane Fairclough, Gary Grunwald, Todd Mackenzie, Deb Glueck, John Kittelson, Matt Strand, Tasha Fingerlin, Nichole Carlson, Katerina Kechris, and Sharon Lutz. Many research and affiliated faculty were also hired. In 2007 the Colorado Biostatistics Consortium (CBC) was formed, with John Kittelson as its first Director.
2008 was a year of several major transitions that set in motion a period of growth for Biostatistics at CU. In July 2008 the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH) was formed from the previous Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics in the School of Medicine. As part of that transition the Department of Biostatistics and Informatics (B&I) was formed along with the Departments of Epidemiology, Community and Behavioral Health, Health Services Management and Policy, and Environmental and Occupational Health. The MPH program and Applied Biostatistics concentration were also formed in 2008 as part of the new school and department. At about the same time, the ColoradoSPH moved to the new University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (AMC) about 8 miles east of downtown Denver, with B&I groups located in historic Building 500 and in Building 406. Denny Lezotte had been head of the Section of Biometrics, became the initial chair of B&I, and guided the department through its formation and initial years. Debashis Ghosh was recruited from Penn State in 2014 as the new chair when Denny retired. He has led the department’s recent involvement with the new campus Center and Division for Personalized Medicine, expansion of the education programs toward Data Science and computing, and substantially expanding the faculty. 3