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Obituaries for August 2019

1 August 2019 No Comment

Barbara Foley Wilson

Barbara Foley Wilson died peacefully, surrounded by her loving family, June 19, 2019, following a stroke in March. She is survived by her loving husband of 64 years, Paul Wilson; her three children, Patricia Tyler Wilson (David Korn), Andrea Wilson (Kerry Kornfeld), and James Wilson; and her four grandchildren.

Born into a lively Irish-Italian family in Yonkers, New York, in 1934, Barbara graduated from Barnard College in 1956. She later attended Georgetown University for a master’s in statistics, which she used in her role as a demographer for the Marriage and Divorce Branch of the National Center for Health Statistics. While there, she was particularly helpful in explaining the mysteries of modern statistics to young newspaper reporters, one of whom wrote that Barbara should be declared a national treasure.

She was also well known at the Edgemoor Tennis Club for her competitive but warm-hearted doubles game. She played tennis right up to the time of her stroke at age 84.

She was loved and admired by everyone who knew her, including the neighborhood children, whom she supplied with cookies and marshmallows whenever she saw them.

A memorial service will be held later in the summer.

Joseph F. Heyse

Joseph F. Heyse, one of the most respected and influential leaders in biopharmaceutical statistics, passed away May 31, 2019. He was 67.

Joe joined Merck & Co., Inc., in 1976 as a statistician supporting preclinical research and immediately began to have a profound influence on the statistics profession by developing statistical methods that subsequently became industry standards.

In 1987, Joe began supporting clinical pharmaceutical research, providing technical oversight for health economics studies to support the marketing of Merck products. In 1990, he was named the director of a newly established department of health economic statistics, which furnished cost-effectiveness evaluations of all Merck products, and proceeded to become a well-recognized leader in the field of health economic statistics.

In 1993, Joe assumed responsibility for the clinical biostatistics group at Merck’s Pennsylvania site—including vaccine biostatistics, which was undergoing unprecedented growth. His impact on human health in this role is best summarized by Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs Eliav Barr, who said, “Joe led the [clinical] statistics group in an era of extraordinary challenges and productivity at Merck. At that time, Merck developed vaccines against rotavirus, a leading cause of infant morbidity and mortality; human papilloma virus, which causes most cases of cervical, genital, and head/neck cancer; and varicella zoster virus, which causes chickenpox in children and often debilitating herpes zoster in adults. Each of these programs required novel, large, complicated studies to address key efficacy and safety questions. Joe’s innovative spirit, keen understanding of clinical research and the underlying disease, deep fount of statistics knowledge, and can-do attitude was instrumental in the success of these studies and the subsequent availability of these vaccines. In short, his work was instrumental to the availability of vaccines that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented untold misery.”

In 2009, Joe transitioned to the head of the early development statistics group at Merck, and most recently, he was in his fifth year as a scientific associate vice president and head of the biostatistics methodology research group, which provides statistical support to research design, analysis, and reporting relating to product development through the application of existing and innovative statistical methods.

Throughout his career, Joe published books and peer-reviewed journal papers extensively. John Tukey, one of the most distinguished individuals in the field of statistics and one of Joe’s earliest mentors, once noted that Joe was one of the most creative statisticians he ever met.

Joe earned his MS in statistics from Villanova University in 1975 and an MBA in economics from Temple University in 1979. He was selected to participate in the Merck Research Laboratories Doctoral Program in 1984 and earned his PhD in statistics from Temple University the following year. He was an ASA Fellow and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Joe was the founding editor of Statistics in Biopharmaceutical Research and editor of Statistical Methods in Medical Research. He served as vice president and president of the Philadelphia Chapter in 1988–1989 and was the Biopharmaceutical Section program chair in 1994–1995. Joe also served on doctoral dissertation advisory committees at Temple University and the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). “I still remember his encouraging words and strong support to junior researchers. … He always encourages me to pursue my dream, don’t wait. He is such an inspiring leader to work with and a role model for us to follow,” wrote Yvonne Huang, a professor of statistics at UMBC.

In his 42 years at Merck, Joe had an extraordinary impact on human health. “Joe not only directly contributed to the successful development of dozens of pharmaceutical products, but he personally and proudly developed, mentored, coached, and collaborated with hundreds of statisticians who have, in turn, become successful drug and vaccine developers and leaders in their profession, both at Merck and in the external statistics community,” said Lisa Lupinacci, associate vice president of late development statistics at Merck.

“Joe was indeed the catalyst for my career at Merck, [and] his encouragement and council for so many years have directly contributed to my professional and personal achievements. I will certainly miss Joe’s generosity, coaching, inspirational stories, candor, integrity, wisdom, and humor,” said Amy Gillespie, associate vice president for statistical programming at Merck.

Keaven Anderson, a distinguished scientist at Merck, recalled his interactions with Joe by noting, “His thinking always drew us into a future vision that we could not imagine on our own! I have so much to thank him for.”

Joe will be remembered as a humble and kind person, who was quicker to give credit than accept it and was most willing to share his time and talents to help mentor others along the way.

Joe will be dearly missed by his wife, Lil; their daughters, Angelina and Gabby; and his many friends and colleagues at Merck and in the biopharmaceutical statistics community around the world.

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