Home » A Statistician's Life, Celebrating Women in Statistics

Emma Benn

1 March 2018 4,072 views One Comment

Photograph by Marcia Wilson

Assistant Professor, Director of Academic Programs, Center for Biostatistics, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Co-Director of the MS in Biostatistics Program, Department of Population Health Science and Policy, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Educational Background
Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health: DrPH, Biostatistics (2012)
Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health: MPH, Sociomedical Sciences (2007)
Swarthmore College: BA, Chemistry and Spanish (minor) (2004)

About Emma
Emma K. T. Benn is originally from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and attended Swarthmore College. She intended to major in Spanish, given that she thought she would become an interpreter, but her interest in STEM fields motivated her to change her major to chemistry and minor in Spanish.

While working as a quality-control chemist for McNeil Consumer and Specialty Pharmaceuticals (renamed to McNeil Consumer Healthcare) upon graduating from college, Emma began to wonder why many people of color in her home suburb and the surrounding suburbs—even with access to excellent health care and stellar public education—seemed to disproportionately be suffering from premature morbidity and mortality. She had brief exposure to public health through an introductory bioethics course she took in her senior year of college, so she thought pursuing graduate-level studies in public health might help her become better versed in the sociostructural determinants of health disparities. Thus, she pursued an MPH in sociomedical sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

In her MPH program, Emma was exposed to biostatistics for the first time, which undoubtedly piqued her interest in the field. Thus, she started taking more biostatistics courses and, with encouragement from her biostatistics professors at the time—such as current vice provost for academic programs at Columbia University, Melissa Begg—Emma stayed at Columbia to pursue a DrPH in biostatistics upon completing her MPH.

While in her DrPH program, Emma questioned why racial/ethnic minorities were not adequately represented in the biostatistics field. While she understood racial/ethnic disparities in mathematics and science education in the US greatly contribute to the under-representation of racial/ethnic minorities in biostatistics, she also believed undergraduate students of color often lack exposure to biostatistics and thus would never consider pursuing it. Therefore, in the first year of her doctoral program, Emma and other biostatistics graduate students—with the support of the department of biostatistics leadership, Office of Student Affairs, and the dean’s office at Mailman—co-founded the BEST Diversity Program, a summer program to expose under-represented minorities, economically disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities to biostatistics and its applications to cardiovascular research and public health more generally. After the first year of BEST, it became a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute–funded summer program, under which 110 diverse undergraduates from academic institutions nationwide have been trained.

Currently, Emma’s research interests include: 1) exploring the development of real-time, interactive, and reliable metrics that can aid in reducing sample selectivity in RCTs while recruitment is ongoing in an effort to increase representation of racial/ethnic minorities, women, and pharmacogenetic minorities in these trials and 2) rigorously examining the effects of skin bleaching–related exposures (e.g., mercury, hydroquinone, corticosteroids, etc.) on the health of African and Afro-Caribbean women and their children in cases where mothers are bleaching while pregnant and/or lactating. She has additionally developed a research agenda around reducing racial/ethnic disparities in faculty promotion in academic medical environments.

In addition to the 10-year success of the BEST Diversity Program, Emma considers her greatest accomplishments to be serving as co-chair of the ENAR Fostering Diversity in Biostatistics Workshop, co-founding and co-directing the MS in biostatistics program at Mount Sinai, and being a well-respected educator and mentor by statisticians and nonstatisticians. Most importantly, Emma continues to strive to increase intersectional inclusivity of racial/ethnic minorities, in addition to women and LGBTQ individuals in the fields of statistics and data science.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

One Comment »

  • Arthur Scott said:

    Congratulation’s Emma. I am so proud of you.

    God bless,

    Art Scott