Nick Shell
June 5, 2019

This week we've put the Spotlight on one of our newest staff biostatisticians, Heather Prigmore.  Heather's research here in the Department is focused on Global Health (specifically HIV research). She works with both the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health and Friends in Global Health.  Read on to learn more about Heather and her interest in statistics!

What was your draw to statistics and/or Vanderbilt?
For as long as I can remember, my fields of interest have been math and medicine, so as I went into college I knew that those were the two areas where I wanted to focus on. Although I changed my mind (and major) several times, I always stayed true to one of those interests. I actually did not discover the field of biostatistics/epidemiology until towards the very end of my undergraduate education when I was searching for a graduate program to attend…and I thought, what a perfect way to combine my two interests! After I finished my master’s at Texas A&M University, I moved across country to start my career as a Biostatistician.

I was drawn to Vanderbilt because of their reputation in research and their concentrated focus on continuing education. The field of statistics is developing quite rapidly, so being able to be a part of a department that highlights and emphasizes learning is incredible. I also liked that there are a large number of statisticians and opportunities for discussion.

What lessons have you learned from being a biostatistician?
Although I have only been a biostatistician for a little over two years, I have learned that communication is key.  With clinical collaborators, fellow statisticians, or anyone else in between, being transparent and honest is the best way to go. I have also learned that the interaction and discussion with fellow statisticians provides a much more valuable learning experience.

What is your best advice for aspiring statisticians?
My advice for aspiring statisticians is to keep an open mind and take any opportunity to learn. Do not be afraid to say “I don’t know” or ask questions. Knowledge will come with experience and what better way to learn than to dive into a topic you are not familiar with? The best statisticians are not necessarily those with the most knowledge of statistical methods; they are those that can communicate effectively and have a desire to learn.

Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt.
Outside of Vanderbilt, you can find me outdoors most of the time. I have a 7-year-old lab mix dog, Sadie, who keeps me active and busy. She loves being outside too, so she will go on any adventure with me (hiking, swimming, camping, jogging…you name it). I really enjoy interior design and am a little obsessed with the show "Fixer Upper" and Joanna and Chip Gaines’s brand Magnolia (the picture is at the Magnolia Silos – their store in Waco, TX). I also love to bake, play sports, try new foods and travel.

Finally, what is something about you that most people at Vanderbilt still don't know about you?
I have won call-in radio contests several times. Some of which have included tickets to a few different concerts, plus meet and greets with stars like Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Nettles (from the duo, Sugarland) and Jason Derulo. I have also won Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo tickets and small cash prizes.