Kyle Hart: Alumni Profile
Kyle Hart graduated from the MS in Biostatistics program in Spring 2014. He completed a thesis titled, "Association between longitudinal changes in gait speed and survival time in aging men: A joint longitudinal and time-to-event analysis of data from the MrOS study."
Q. What is your educational and professional background?
I earned my BS in English with an emphasis in Professional & Technical Writing and minors in geography and computer science from Weber State University in late 2000. I worked as a technical writer, web developer, and computer programmer until a small medical device company in Vancouver, Washington hired me in 2004 to manage data for their clinical trials.
Q. Why did you decide to pursue the MS in Biostatistics at OHSU?
As my role developed at that medical device company, I became interested in many aspects of clinical research that were beyond my skill set, so I enrolled in OHSU's MPH program in epidemiology and biostatistics in 2010. After my first year in that program, it was clear that I was more interested in the statistics courses than I was the epidemiology courses. Statistics is grounded in theories that have a cleverness to them that I find elegant and occasionally thrilling. I started taking as many courses in statistics as I could, and when the new MS in biostatistics program was born in 2013, I transferred my credits over and started my year of theoretical work.
Q. How would you describe the learning environment in the required and elective courses?
The courses—especially the theory classes—were peppered with those thrilling moments that come from spending a lot of time with a problem and then finally piecing together the solution. There was a lot of collaborative learning in my classes. We formed study groups and helped each other understand some of the more difficult material. These study groups forged good friendships and really enriched my education. The faculty were very engaged and supportive. Even after graduating, I'm still in touch with many faculty members who continue to mentor me in my developing career.
Q. Can you describe a project that you worked on in the program?
The thesis was an indispensable project that tied together all of the course work I had done up to that point. Using data from the MrOS study, I conducted a joint longitudinal and time-to-event analysis to examine the association between changing walking speed and mortality in older men. This project required a good understanding of mixed-effects models and survival analysis. It also involved a fair amount of statistical theory so that I could learn how to combine these two types of models into a single joint model. My mentor was very available and supportive, and she pushed me to take the project further than I would have on my own volition. Even now, after graduation, we're still working together on a publication based on my thesis.
Q. Can you tell us about your current job?
I'm working as a Program Analyst with the Health Services Research & Development group at the Portland VA. I do a lot of data management, but I've also given talks on statistical methods, and I'm being invited to use my training more as my role here develops. I work with a number of people, including faculty, whom I met while I was a student. It's a great place to spend my days, doing important research with some very smart people.
Q. Did the MS in Biostatistics help you obtain this position, and if so, how?
Although my current position is primarily a data management job, the HSR&D group said they were looking for somebody who could produce datasets informed by a solid understanding of statistics. In addition to giving me the background necessary to compete for this job, I believe some of the networking I did during my training at OHSU helped make me a better candidate. How do you apply concepts and skills that you learned in the program in your daily work?I learned programming in Stata, R, and SAS, and my days are spent almost entirely writing code in one of these languages. I use my training to produce analysis-ready datasets, and I use a variety of statistical methods to construct models and write up portions of manuscripts.
Q. What kind of advice would you give to potential applicants to the MS in Biostatistics program?
For me, forming a study group and getting together on weekends to go over homework was instrumental in learning. Also, I would suggest coming to the program with background in differential and integral calculus and matrix algebra.