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

Scarlett Bellamy

1 February 2021 1,745 views 3 Comments

Scarlett Bellamy

Professor and Associate Dean for Diversity, Inclusion, and Faculty Development
Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Drexel University

ScM and ScD, Biostatistics, Harvard University
BA, Mathematics, Hampton University

Scarlett Bellamy is originally from a small, rural town in the southeastern part of North Carolina. She was raised by her grandparents until she was about 10, spending nearly equal time with her paternal grandparents—who were farmers—and her maternal grandmother—who worked in the cafeteria of the local hospital. Her paternal grandparent’s number-one crop was tobacco, and she first learned to drive a tractor when she was five years old to help with the summer harvest. Ironically, Bellamy, who is a public health researcher, has roots firmly in tobacco. She loved her farming childhood because she could clearly see how she was contributing to the well-being of her family, even as a kid, and the experience shaped her work ethic at a very early age.

When she was about eight years old, Bellamy’s paternal grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer while only in her mid-50s. Not wanting to imagine a world without her, Bellamy promised her that, if she could hold on long enough, she would go to college and study to become a doctor so she could “fix” her, but she passed away before Bellamy could fulfill her promise.

At the same time, although Bellamy did not fully appreciate it then, she began to notice an impressive line of family mathematicians, including her grandfather’s brother and mother—who taught math at the local high school—and her father’s sister—who taught math at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. During the summer, Bellamy would spend several weeks with her aunt and attend her summer school classes, where she often taught algebra. She would encourage Bellamy by asking her to “help” her get ready for class, but she was really teaching Bellamy algebra when she was in elementary and middle school. And even though Bellamy was never the best student in any of her school math classes, she enjoyed math and it certainly did not intimidate her.

Later, when she went to college at Hampton University, Bellamy was a math major and continued to enjoy math, although her interests were shifting more to applications after being introduced to biostatistics during a summer program following her sophomore and junior years at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This was a mentored research experience that her then roommate, Knashawn (Hodge) Morales, and Bellamy participated in together with Lloyd Edwards serving as their mentor. Morales and Bellamy went on to study biostatistics at Harvard with Louise Ryan as their adviser. So now Bellamy is a doctor and, although not the type who could fix her grandmother, she is proud to have fulfilled her promise.

Bellamy has had many proud moments. Completing her doctorate is one. Respectfully occupying spaces of influence is another, especially when representation and visibility matter so much for folks who may not often see themselves reflected in these spaces. She is also proud of being a wife and mother. Her family is very important to her, and she is proud of the life they are creating together.

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  • Una said:

    What a gorgeous story. I’m so proud of you Scarlett! I knew a lot of the story but reading it made my heart swell. I love you. We love you.

  • Anonymous said:

    Excellent story. The best is yet to come.

  • Nolan said:

    An example for so many young statisticians, awesome!