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Background

For more than 45 years, the Department of Biostatistics (BIOS), now home to the Center for Occupational Biostatistics and Epidemiology (COBE), has been one of the leading academic centers of occupational and environmental health research in the United States. BIOS faculty have been active in the development and application of biostatistical methods to study potential health effects of workplace exposures in a variety of industrial settings including: man-made vitreous fiber production, steel making, coal mining, refinery and petrochemical operations, copper and zinc smelting, pharmaceutical production, jet engine manufacturing and tungsten carbide production.

Current and former BIOS faculty members who have made significant contributions in occupational and environmental health research include (alpha order): Vincent Arena, Ph.D, Jeanine Buchanich, Ph.D, Laura Cassidy, Ph.D., Joseph Costantino, Dr.P.H., Richard Day, Ph.D., Philip Enterline, Ph.D., Gary Marsh, Ph.D., Sati Mazumdar, Ph.D., Carol Redmond, Sc.D., Howard Rockette, Ph.D., Roslyn Stone, Ph.D. and Ada Youk, Ph.D.

Faculty members in BIOS continue to make important contributions to the development of new statistical methodology and to provide the quantitative component to public health and biomedical research efforts that have had a major impact on the prevention and treatment of disease. BIOS faculty have also pioneered new and innovative statistical methods, computer software and data base systems to refine and facilitate the conduct of these investigations.

Gary M. Marsh, Ph.D., Professor of Biostatistics, has been active in occupational health research in BIOS for more than 35 years, and for many years has directed the Department’s largest occupational health research unit. Dr. Marsh’s research unit in COBE currently includes: a Ph.D. level biostatistician (Dr. Ada Youk), a Ph.D. level epidemiologist (Dr. Jeanine Buchanich), a masters level biostatistician (Ms. Sarah Downing Zimmerman), an information/computer scientist (Mr. Charles Alcorn), and several technical/clerical support staff including graduate student researchers and a professional interviewer.

COBE has conducted occupational studies to investigate the long-term health effects of exposure to such agents as man-made mineral fibers, formaldehyde, acrylamide, acrylonitrile, arsenic, petrochemicals, aromatic amines, tungsten carbide with cobalt binder and pharmaceuticals. They have also applied their expertise in occupational epidemiological research to environmental epidemiologic studies of communities exposed to industrial pollutants or to hazardous waste site materials. Following is a sample of recent publications in the occupational and environmental health areas:

COBE completed an historical cohort study of nearly a quarter million jet engine manufacturing workers for the Pratt & Whitney Company and published five papers on the final results of the study. The Pratt & Whitney study was a collaborative effort with the Department of Neuro-Oncology within UPMC and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In addition, COBE is engaged in several ongoing studies including:

COBE is also involved in basic methodological research related to statistical computing, longitudinal data analysis and quantitative risk assessment. Some of the major contributions in these areas include:

Today, COBE enjoys a national and international reputation as a leading center of occupational health research. Since the early 1980s, the sponsored research projects conducted by COBE have generated more than 15 million dollars in sponsored research funds.