Home » A Statistician's Life, Celebrating Black History Month

Machell Town

1 February 2021 1,604 views One Comment

Machell Town

Branch Chief, Population Health Surveillance Branch, Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

PhD, Public Health, Walden University
MS and BS, Statistics, University of Georgia

Machell Town joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Division of Adult and Community Health in November of 1999 as a mathematical statistician in the Behavioral Surveillance Branch. She provides expertise in sample designs and weighting for the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Her position places her at the head of the team responsible for the nation’s largest state-based population survey focused on a number of health indicators, risk behaviors, access to care, and use of preventive services. She is a leader in oversampling of special populations and local communities for RDD surveys. Town has consulted on sample design and weighting for special surveys in the US and globally.

Town was born and raised in Rome, Georgia. Her introduction to statistics was as a statistician for the Boys and Girls Club varsity basketball team. After high school, Town attended the University of Georgia and majored in computer science. She enjoyed the classes but approached her academic adviser about majoring in math and her adviser suggested she take statistics. Town went on to earn her BS and MS in statistics from the University of Georgia (UGA) and her PhD in public health with a concentration in epidemiology from Walden University.

Upon graduating from UGA, Town accepted a position as a mathematical statistician at the US Census Bureau in the Decennial Division. She worked at the Census Bureau for nine years, specializing in sampling, data quality, questionnaire development, weighting, variance estimators, and small area estimation. During her time at the Census Bureau, Town was chosen to be part of a statistician rotation program that allowed her to gain experience working in the Demographic Survey Division, Economic Division, and Statistical Research Division.

Town has led innovative projects in population estimation, including a recent research effort into the use of wearable devices as measures of health status. She has also published in major health research peer-reviewed journals and makes regular presentations about her work inside and outside of the CDC. She has collaborated with national nonprofit agencies to develop research at the population level. She also assists federal agencies outside CDC and collaborates with international organizations wishing to conduct population studies similar to the BRFSS.

Town’s proudest moment was when she was chosen as the branch chief to lead the BRFSS. She enjoys mentoring young professionals and students inside and outside CDC. She is a member of the Committee on Minorities in Statistics and was a member of the 2019 and 2020 ASA Diversity Mentoring planning committees. She has been appointed to the statistics advisory committee of Preventing Chronic Disease.

Town is married with three children.

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One Comment »

  • Annie Bragg said:


    I am so proud of you for being selected for the Black History Month by the American Statistical Association. I have worked with you at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2005 and it has been a very satisfying time for me. I saw you rise up to the rank of Branch Chief (a well deserved position). I remember you working has an epidemiologist for the BRFSS, working on your PhD, and raising your family. You are a pleasure to work with and always believed in the open door policy. I pray for your continued success at CDC.