Why is the field of biostatistics important to health equity? Indrakshi Roy, PhD, biostatistician for the Center for Health Equity Research (CHER) and the Southwest Health Equity Collaborative (SHERC), believes that with the advancement of various technologies, analysis of data is becoming the cornerstone for policy decisions and for addressing health disparities or achieving equity.
“In the light of this pandemic, we have seen that data are essential for identifying where disparities exist, directing efforts and resources to address disparities as they are identified, measuring progress toward achieving greater equity, and establishing accountability for achieving progress,” Roy said. “Without adequate data, inequities remain unseen and unaddressed. The potential impact of big data in health care innovation cannot be ignored.”
Roy said that, although big data analytics have great potential to target inequities, reduce disparities, and inform policy decisions, it is important to properly understand the biases that can occur from using big data methods.
“It is also important to understand how to properly work with and analyze big data,” Roy said of the nuances of interpreting data accurately.
Roy works with the Technical Assistance Group a service center in CHER, to help faculty and staff conduct high-quality research at NAU, assisting faculty and researchers in statistical methods and analysis for their research projects.
She also assists with grant applications together, reviewing analytical plans with investigators, suggesting appropriate statistical methods and helping with power analysis. She also conducts workshops at NAU related to quantitative methods, secondary data, and statistical software.
“I use my expertise to assist others who are interested in using quantitative statistical methods in their studies,” Roy said.
Through her own research, Roy works with large secondary datasets to answer questions related to health services, health policy and gerontology. So far, she has collaborated on five publications while at the center: “Medicare Claim–Based National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale to Predict 30-Day Mortality and Hospital Readmission”; “Quality of Care and Outcomes Among a Diverse Group of Long-Term Care Residents With Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias”; “Shifting US Patterns of COVID-19 Mortality by Race and Ethnicity From June-December 2020”; “Racial Differences in Post-Acute Transition After Hip Fracture in Medicare Patients With ADRD”; and “Racial Differences in Post-Acute Utilization After Hip Fracture in Medicare Beneficiaries With ADRD.”
Growing up as a scientist
Roy said she was always inclined toward the sciences as a youth.
“I had an aptitude for math and science, and everyone assumed I would go for medical school or engineering, as is common in countries like India,” Roy said. “But I decided I wanted to try something new in college. So, I went for economics.”
She said that she wasn’t particularly interested in economics at first, and she graduated college feeling uninspired.
“Then my professor introduced me to one of his ex-students who at the time was an assistant professor of economics in a very reputable Canadian university,” Roy said. “This person changed my outlook toward the subject. I started taking up more personal research projects and decided to apply for graduate school in the US.”
She said that she realized that economics could be applied to almost every aspect of life like no other subject, which fascinated her.
“During graduate school in the US, I started understanding concepts of economics clearly, and it was a subject that kept me constantly curious,” Roy said.
Ultimately, she earned her doctorate in economics from Wayne State University. She focused her dissertation on “The Changing Status of Employer-Sponsored Fringe Benefits in the U.S. for Adults Nearing Retirement,” which began her focus toward health equity.
“At the time, my advisor and mentor and I started discussing the retirement crisis,” Roy said. “We felt it was a very important topic and wanted to contribute to the literature. Whenever I discussed my dissertation with people I encountered, like Uber drivers, everyone related to it and always had personal anecdotes to share.”
Roy arrived in Flagstaff two years ago, and she said that her experiences at CHER and SHERC have been influential.
“I get to work alongside exceptional leaders and researchers and it is an inspiration every day. It is a very positive and encouraging environment,” Roy said.
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