Spotlight on Vanderbilt Biostatistics: Cathy Jenkins

This week we are excited to feature Cathy Jenkins, a Biostatistician IV, in the Vanderbilt Department of Biostatistics. Read on to learn more about her work and interests here at Vanderbilt:

What has been the focus of your research during your time in the Department?
For most of my time at Vanderbilt, I have split my time evenly between the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Department of Emergency Medicine.  My work with Infectious Diseases has been all HIV research using data collected locally, as well as from larger regional cohorts such as North America or Central and South America.  In one study, we saw that obesity is an increasing problem among persons living with HIV. The investigator I worked with on this project is interested in understanding HIV in the context of this obesity problem along with HIV in the context of the co-morbid conditions that come along with obesity.

My work with Emergency Medicine has largely focused on the management of heart failure in an acute care setting.  As the population ages, the number of people showing up to ERs with signs and symptoms of acute heart failure is increasing.  While it is clear who the sickest of the sick are and should be admitted, there is a large gray area where it is unclear how best to help patients manage their disease.  In one particular study using data from a large national emergency department database, we saw that on average about 80% of patients coming to the ER with acute heart failure were admitted.  This leads to huge costs both for the patient and the hospital.  Our goal is to be able to identify those who are safe for discharge from the ER to reduce the burden on both the patients and the hospitals.

How did you become a biostatistician?
I came to statistics by a very circuitous route.  I have an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a masters in applied math. I always enjoyed applications in the chemical/biological realms and found the teaching aspects that come along with working as a statistician appealing.  Just like with teaching, communication is key in my job. The investigators with whom I work have varying levels of statistical backgrounds so being able to adapt to their comfort level is a necessity.

What makes your role within Vanderbilt special? 
I have greatly appreciated all of the opportunities I have had here at Vanderbilt.  I started here in 2005, not too long after the department was started.  From the beginning, we have always been encouraged to be 'life-long learners' and given resources to help us with that.  I am grateful to be able to be a part of interesting research that is looking at current problems in need of sustainable solutions.

Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt. 
When I am not at work, I am typically doing something outside.  I have friends from my days at Auburn with whom I vacation every year.  We have hiked in many beautiful places including the Grand Canyon, Alaska, Olympic National Park, Maine, and the Canadian Rockies.  For the last several years, I've also done a few sprint triathlons.  I don't burn up the course by any means; my goal is to have fun and simply to finish!  And oh yeah, I am an Auburn football fan -- War Eagle!

Finally, what is something about you that most people at Vanderbilt still do not know about you? (Until now, of course!)
When I was in junior high, my entire class had to enter an oratorical contest sponsored by our local Optimist Club.  Shockingly, this introvert made it all the way to AL/MS districts!  You never know what you can do until you try!