Nick Shell
March 28, 2019

This week's Spotlight features faculty member, Sharon E. Phillips, MSPH, an Associate in Biostatistics.  Read on to learn more about Sharon's research, interests and hobbies.  

Tell us about your research interests.
I have worked with a general surgical group for close to 10 years now. This group performs hernia repairs and does research related to these repairs. They established a registry 6 years ago and data is collected from practices across the country. This data has been used in research to identify factors associated with surgical site infections and surgical site occurrences. In one study we determined the infection rate was greater for patients who underwent a chlorhexidine scrub prior to surgery. This has changed the use of chlorhexidine scrub for some practices. The article was published in Journal American College of Surgeons in 2017. Other journals this group has published in include JAMA Surgery, J Surgical Research, Annals of Surgical Oncology. Other groups I have worked with in the past include urology, studied prostate, kidney and bladder cancer, and the study of non-small cell lung cancer with radiation oncology.

What was your draw to statistics and/or Vanderbilt?
I have always been interested in clinical/medical research and biostatistics is a way of being involved with research.  Likewise, I was drawn to Vanderbilt because of their reputation in clinical/medical research. I liked the fact there was a department of biostatistics and there would be other statisticians where I would be able to discuss analyses.

What are your thoughts on controversial statistical topics such as the role of data science in the future?
With the use of larger data sets, which includes electronic medical records, the mining of this “Big Data” will fall on data science to a certain degree. I do however think data science has to have an understanding of statistics to guide the data mining. Without a sound foundation in statistics, what they come up with may not be very meaningful.

Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt.
I have two grown children, a son and a daughter, both married. My son and his wife have two children, a girl and a boy. I have two Brussels Griffon dogs who think they are little people. I enjoy gardening, flowers and vegetables. I grow a variety of organic vegetables and hot peppers. I dry the hot peppers, grind them into a powder then add it to sea salt for spicy salt. I also grow and dry my own organic herbs. I guess you could say knitting and reading are hobbies as well.  What I have knitted most recently has been baby blankets (for the kids) and winter scarves for myself, daughter and daughter-in-law. When I read, it is mainly novels. One of my favorite authors has a character who is one of the foremost pathologists in the country and the books are about the different cases she is assigned. These novels include the autopsy details for many of the cases.

Finally, what is something about you that most people at Vanderbilt still don't know about you? (Until now, of course!)
When I was in junior high (this was grades 7-9), I was on the newspaper staff in 8th grade and served as the editor for the school newspaper in 9th grade. Because they still used typesetting, I learned to read backwards as the school did not want to pay to have 1-2 copies run for us to proofread the articles.