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Groundbreaking Epidemiologist Retires from Pitt Public Health

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 1, 2012 – Sheryl F. Kelsey, Ph.D., the first woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in statistics from Carnegie Mellon University, retired last week from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, following an illustrious career in epidemiology.

Her contributions to the Bypass Angioplasty Revascularization Investigation (BARI), BARI 2D and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Dynamic Registry – all of which looked at coronary angioplasties in real-world clinical practice – led to changes in the treatment of heart disease.

She also had a significant impact on the education of generations of students at Pitt Public Health, developing and teaching several courses on the design and analysis of clinical trials. She served as the primary faculty advisor for seven doctoral students and served on over 60 doctoral committees.

“Dr. Kelsey, now a professor emerita, has been a vital and passionate faculty member of our school since day one,” said Pitt Public Health Dean Donald S. Burke, M.D., UPMC-Jonas Salk Chair of Global Health. “Sherry’s career contributions to research, scholarship and education are many. Over her 35-year career, she’s led clinical trials in cardiology, women’s health, neurology and ophthalmology.”

“We are very proud of Sherry Kelsey's accomplishments,” said Jay Kadane, the Leonard J. Savage University Professor of Statistics and Social Sciences, Emeritus at Carnegie Mellon University and head of the Department of Statistics when she was earning her Ph.D. “Her career exemplifies the qualities we hope for in our students.”

Dr. Kelsey, whose doctoral thesis focused on the measurement of air pollution emissions from coke oven doors, earned her Ph.D. in 1978. Upon graduation, she was recruited to Pitt by the late Katherine Detre, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., a distinguished professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health and a leading cardiovascular researcher.

“Dr. Kelsey has blazed the trail for women to pursue public health careers in statistics and epidemiology,” said Anne Newman, M.D., M.P.H., chair of Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “As a role model, she demonstrates the highest standards of scientific inquiry in a truly collaborative spirit. She is particularly adept at translating clinical questions into testable hypotheses with meaningful quantitative results. As a professor emerita, she will continue to consult on many ongoing studies.”

She was the principal investigator of the Data Coordinating Center for the Endophthalmitis Vitrectomy Study and the Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation (WISE), a groundbreaking study that investigated ischemic heart disease in women. Dr. Kelsey’s critical contributions to the landmark Brain Resuscitation Clinical Trials resulted in changes to the treatment of cardiac arrest around the world.

Dr. Kelsey has authored or co-authored over 250 publications in peer-reviewed journals. As a result of her expertise, she has served on numerous data and safety monitoring boards for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Her contributions were not limited to research, nor the classroom. She used her personal passion for photography to help Pitt Public Health students raise money for the Wei Scholarship Fund, which supports tuition, travel and fees for epidemiology students, by donating her photography for sale. She also supported the Detre Scholarship, which supports the graduate studies of promising incoming students.

Dr. Kelsey was named a fellow of the American Statistical Association in 1998, the American Heart Association in 2001 and the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences in 2010. In 1993 she was named to the Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society and, in 2009, was named Statistician of the Year by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Statistical Association.

Dr. Kelsey was born in 1945 in Cleveland, Ohio, but spent most of her formative years in New Jersey and summers in Iowa. She is married to Dr. George Duncan, has one son, Webster, two stepchildren, Greg and Christi, and three step-grandchildren, Ethan, Alexander and Rachel.

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