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Remembering Dionne Price with Her Own Wise Words

1 March 2024 1,071 views No Comment

Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar

“For wise and thoughtful leadership of the ASA; and for a passionate commitment to promote the practice and profession of statistics for all members of the statistics community.”

This is why we honored Dionne Price at the 2023 Joint Statistical Meetings for her service as the American Statistical Association’s 118th and first African American president. She passed away too early, on February 22, after bravely battling cancer this past year. I extend my deepest condolences to Dionne’s family, friends, and colleagues during this difficult time.

In this President’s Corner, using Dionne’s own words, let us remember and celebrate our generous, intelligent, and compassionate colleague and friend we were privileged to know. I hope these words are a source of inspiration and comfort.

Dionne Price

“I fell in love with biostatistics during a summer internship as an undergraduate. I was an applied mathematics major searching for a direction, and an internship at the National Institutes of Health ignited my passion for statistics. The rest as we say, ‘is history.’ My passion for the ‘practice and profession of statistics’ has grown stronger because I am fortunate to work with a talented group of statisticians and other professionals and able to serve our community.” – January 2023 President’s Corner

“What inspires me is being able to use statistics to make a difference in the lives of others.” – ThisIsStatistics video featuring Dionne

“The ASA’s vision statement imagines a world that relies on data and statistical thinking to drive discovery and inform decisions. With our vision as our guide, we must be prepared to assume leadership roles on many levels. For some, this translates to a career that includes formal leadership positions within organizations. These formal roles are certainly important, but we also must be prepared to lead as members of our many communities. … This recommendation extends beyond the classroom and into our workplaces and communities. As statisticians and data scientists, we have the knowledge and must develop the ability to assist our colleagues and collaborators in understanding that statistical thinking is essential to solving problems and making sound decisions.” – May 2023 President’s Corner (my emphasis)

“We are students, we are educators, we are professionals, we are leaders, we are visionaries, we are problem solvers, we are innovators, we are story tellers, we are community, we are statisticians and data scientists informing decisions and driving discoveries!” – ASA President’s Address, August 2023

“We know that our work affects the foods we eat, the weather forecasts, the transportation systems, and economic health. … However, we are not resting on our laurels. We are continuing our influence. Some of the areas where we are providing statistical leadership in our evolving global landscape include data science education, machine learning, human rights statistics, and high-dimensional genomics and microbiome analyses. … Statisticians and data scientists were front and center throughout the pandemic using data and statistical knowledge to inform decisions about potential treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. Our efforts spanned across academia, industry, and government; we were dedicated and committed to ending the global pandemic.” – ASA President’s Address, August 2023

“The success of JSM stands as evidence of the unwavering spirit of scientific inquiry, collaboration, and progress that defines our profession.” – September 2023 President’s Corner

“Do what you enjoy. That’s my first piece of advice. Second, explore and take advantage of opportunities to become involved. I remember early in my career, I volunteered at the registration desk for a workshop sponsored by the Biopharmaceutical Section of the ASA. And I volunteered for multiple years at the registration desk, and I enjoyed it. An added benefit that I may not have appreciated at that time was I was meeting people, and I was networking while volunteering. And that simple act led to other opportunities in the biopharmaceutical section, which set me on a path to active volunteering and immense opportunities.” – Practical Significance, January 2023, responding to a question about advice for students and early-career statisticians

“We envision a world in which statistical literacy is embraced, leading to a more informed citizenry capable of critically assessing claims, navigating uncertainties, and contributing to evidence-based decision-making.” – August 2023 President’s Corner announcing the Telling Our Stories project

“My vision of our future is one that has 1) a rich pipeline of students in statistics and data science, 2) increased awareness and visibility of our community and our many efforts, and 3) ensuring our future leaders are prepared to lead with statistics.” – ASA President’s Address, August 2023

These quotes from Dionne, especially the last one, bring us to her legacy. I wrote this column two days after her passing, while many are still processing this immense loss and what we must collectively do to honor her memory and immense contributions to our profession and the ASA. When introducing Dionne for her president’s address last summer in Toronto, former president Kathy Ensor said the following:

Dionne Price’s journey as a leader has been defined by her passion for creating impactful change in the lives of others. Dionne has an innate ability to bring people together, empowering them to collaborate towards a common goal. Her inclusive approach ensures that diverse voices are heard. Beyond her role as ASA president, she continues to be a source of inspiration to countless individuals, mentoring and nurturing emerging leaders. Her commitment to empowering the next generation of change makers ensures a sustainable legacy of progress that will endure far beyond her tenure.

We will honor Dionne’s legacy by continuing to cherish, pursue, and, ultimately, realize her vision for the future of our profession. I will conclude my column with words from the citation Dionne received to honor her service as the 2023 ASA president:

For commitment to using statistical practice to drive discovery and inform decision-making for the public good; for leadership at the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the safety and efficacy of drugs and biologics; for extraordinary efforts and teamwork to develop innovative study designs for rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic; for wise and thoughtful leadership of the ASA; and for a passionate commitment to promote the practice and profession of statistics for all members of the statistics community.
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