Sometimes we’re lucky enough to work with a professor who not only helps us excel in our studies, but also sparks the spirit of giving back to the community. Kathryn Chaloner was one of those inspiring teachers.
Chaloner joined the University of Iowa in 2002 as professor and head of the Department of Biostatistics in the College of Public Health. She led the department until October 2014, when she passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer.
Chaloner was a distinguished and highly respected scholar, internationally known for her research contributions to several areas, including Bayesian design of experiments, clinical trials, and HIV/AIDS studies. As one of the few prominent female statisticians of her generation, she was committed to the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the statistical sciences. She actively encouraged female students and underrepresented minority students to join the profession, and provided infrastructure, mentorship, support, and encouragement to foster their success.
In 2009, Chaloner and her colleague Gideon Zamba, professor of biostatistics, co-founded the Iowa Summer Institute in Biostatistics (ISIB) at the University of Iowa. Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the Iowa program was established with a speciﬁc focus on recruiting women and underrepresented minorities.
The seven-week summer institute provides undergraduate students with biostatistical research education and applied research experience. Melissa Jay participated in ISIB in 2014 and is now a PhD student in the University of Iowa biostatistics program. She’s also the president of the Biostatistics Student Organization.
The student group recently contributed a monetary gift to the Kathryn M. Chaloner Memorial Scholarship fund. The annual scholarship recognizes, honors, and supports an outstanding underrepresented minority student.
“A few of the current biostatistics students, including myself, were fortunate to have met Dr. Chaloner and learned from her while participating in the Iowa Summer Institute in Biostatistics,” says Jay. “Other students have learned about her deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and her outstanding leadership in both the department and the field. As a student organization, we were inspired to honor her memory and contributions to the department through a gift that supports outstanding students from underrepresented backgrounds.”
“I distinctly remember a visit Kathryn made during one of our ISIB lab sessions to check up on all of us and give her guest lecture,” adds Javier Flores, a PhD student in the Iowa biostatistics program and 2014 ISIB participant. He also was the 2016 recipient of the Chaloner Scholarship. “At the time, I wasn’t quite aware of the history of ISIB and how large a role Kathryn played in all of it. But later learning exactly how essential Kathryn was to ISIB–in addition to just learning about how much Kathryn overcame throughout her life–my admiration and respect for her became immeasurable.”
Continuing Chaloner’s legacy of support for increased diversity and inclusion in the field of biostatistics is important to Jay and her fellow students.
“I am grateful to be part of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Iowa,” Jay says. “We have such a collaborative, tight-knit, and talented department. Giving allows the department to continue to attract exceptional students, faculty, and staff from different backgrounds to grow our amazing community.”