Biostatistical Unit Supports Widening Research

Kellogg Eye Center's Biostatistics Group
Chris Andrews, Ph.D., Prabha Narayanaswamy, M.S., David Musch, Ph.D., M.P.H., Leslie Niziol, M.S., and Moshiur Rahman, Ph.D.

In today’s data-driven world, the ability to appropriately design and conduct analyses is crucial for success, particularly in research. To help Kellogg prosper in the era of “big data,” there are seven full-time specialists in biostatistics, making up  one of the largest ophthalmology biostatistical support units in the world. David Musch, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor of ophthalmology and epidemiology—and the unit’s director—recalls how it happened. 

It began in 1979, when Paul Lichter, M.D., then chair of the U-M Department of Ophthalmology, was principal investigator of a National Eye Institute-sponsored trial comparing acetazolamide to neptazane in lowering intraocular pressure. Dr. Lichter’s secretary at the time, Jan Musch, introduced him to her husband, David, who was completing a doctoral program in epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health.

Starting in June 1981, Dr. Musch became the department’s go-to person for biostatistical assistance. Soon afterward, he provided critical input to Roy Beck, M.D., Ph.D., the former Kellogg faculty neuro-ophthalmologist, who was launching the landmark Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial. 

Dr. Beck established the Jaeb Center for Health Research in Tampa, Florida, one of the most important national coordinating centers for ophthalmic trials. 

Dr. Musch’s most enduring role has been as the director of the statistical coordinating center for the Collaborative Initial Glaucoma Treatment Study (CIGTS), which followed 607 patients in 14 national centers to compare medical treatment against early surgery. With continued grant support from the National Institutes of Health, analyses of CIGTS data are still ongoing 25 years later, generating more than 35 publications in respected medical journals and enabling the expansion of Kellogg’s biostatistical support unit.

Other team members are:

Leslie Niziol, M.S., joined Kellogg in 2004 as statistical consultant on the CIGTS project. “We have collected an incredible wealth of data on the study’s patients,” she said, “and we keep finding out more and more about them.” 

An author on many of the CIGTS publications, she is also designing and analyzing studies of telemedicine diagnosis, medication adherence in glaucoma patients and genetic typing in ocular melanoma.

Nidhi Talwar, M.B.A., M.S., obtained a master’s degree in applied statistics from U-M and joined the Kellogg biostatistics team in 2009. She analyzes “large data” from insurance and electronic medical records, working in collaboration with Kellogg  professor Joshua Stein, M.D., M.S. 

Chris Andrews, Ph.D., joined the team in 2012. He holds mathematics degrees from Oberlin College and the University of California-Berkeley, and a doctorate in statistics from Carnegie Mellon University. He has been the statistician on more than  60 publications, including analyses of national insurance-claims data related to screening and risk factors for diabetic retinopathy. Other projects include visual screening of preschool-age children, correlation of fundus imagery and clinical course in retinal dystrophies and accuracy of radiologic interpretation of MRI of brain tumors.

Moshiur Rahman, Ph.D., joined the Kellogg biostatistical unit in January 2017. Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, he holds a doctorate in statistical sciences from the Graduate University for Advanced Studies in Hayama, Japan. At Kellogg he collaborates  on claims-data studies, quality assurance and electronic medical record data analysis. 

Prabha Narayanaswamy, M.S., moved to the unit in 2017 from the U-M Transportation Research Institute, where she analyzed crash-data sets and driver behavior data. At Kellogg, she studies angle-closure glaucoma, optic neuritis, idiopathic intracranial hypertension, telemedicine and prevalence of pediatric low vision in South India. She also supports studies of data management of electronic medical records for natural language processing.

Chiu-Mei Chen, M.A., M.S., joined the team in late 2017. She earned a master’s degree in economics from National Taiwan University and a master’s degree in information systems from Eastern Michigan University. She held various data systems-related positions at U-M before coming to Kellogg, where she specializes in extracting and integrating ophthalmic clinical data from electronic medical records.