Jia-Yeong Tsay


M.S. Statistics 1971, Ph.D. Statistics 1974

Executive Director, Organon USA Inc.

Written by: Andrea Rau, Ph.D. candidate in Statistics

As an Executive Director at Organon USA Inc., part of a global pharmaceutical company Organon International, Jia-Yeong Tsay has learned the importance of people skills in teamwork – such as leadership, communication, negotiation, etc. – of which he learned relatively little in his early school years. "If all team members work together cohesively in a team with mutual support and mutual trust, the synergy of teamwork can be very powerful," explained Tsay. "A naïve analogy is to gain the results of one plus one greater than two. To achieve that, you need not only to have good technical skills, but also to have good people skills."

Tsay began his graduate studies in Mathematics (in topology) before he came to Purdue. Tsay thought that he wanted to be in a field that was "more practical and relevant to the real world," and decided to change fields; he felt fortunate to get admitted to the Statistics Department at Purdue with a scholarship. Before he started his dissertation, he asked his advisor, Professor Studden, if he could work on a topic that would need to use computers for his dissertation. His advisor graciously accommodated his wish. "During my graduate school years at Purdue, I read many articles of statistical application in clinical trials and felt fascinated by the profound impact our statistics discipline might have on biomedical research," Tsay said.

After obtaining his Ph.D. in Statistics from Purdue in 1974, Tsay went on to work as a National Institutes of Health (NIH) postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Cincinnati Medical College. This position helped Tsay to "get training in the medical field and simultaneously participate in medical research to help in statistical design and analysis for medical colleagues." Two years later, he became a professor of Biostatistics at the same institution, and went on to co-edit the first edition of Statistics in the Pharmaceutical Industry with the Department Head, Professor Ralph Buncher, in 1981. This was a significant achievement, as it was the first book of statistics published with a full focus on the pharmaceutical industry. The first edition of this book was translated into Japanese by Japanese professors and pharmaceutical industry statisticians. The book continues to be used around the world today, with the third edition published in early 2006.

After six years in Cincinnati, Tsay moved from his career in academia to a position as a Statistical Reviewer for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and later to the NIH as a Head & Health Statistician in the Biostatistics Unit of a drug development program. In 1990, Tsay was elected as President of the International Chinese Statistics Association (ICSA), which he credits to his training at Purdue. Tsay commented that Purdue offered a "balanced graduate program in applied statistics and mathematical statistics, which made Purdue a unique place to train students for a broad career possibility."

In 1992, Tsay took a position as Associate Director of Biometrics in the Clinical Development Department at Organon USA, Inc. Today, as Executive Director, Tsay works as the Head of the Biometrics Department as well as Head of the Clinical Information Unit, which is comprised of three departments: Biometrics, Clinical Data Management, and Clinical Documentation/Medical Writing.

Throughout his career, Tsay has realized the importance of getting continuous training for new technical skills, process improvement, and management skills. "Continuous improvement in technical and people skills is critical in career development," he stressed. "Even at my current senior executive level, I am still taking training from time to time for special skills needed in new challenges." Tsay has also found that joining relevant professional societies, like the American Statistical Association (ASA) can be particularly beneficial in order to have "opportunities to interact with peers for current trends of industrial practice in our field and to develop networking with industrial colleagues and stakeholders." In addition, Tsay has found that flexibility is crucial, whether in a team or within a career path. "The industry is very dynamic," he said. "Internal reorganization or external mergers or acquisitions are quite common. You should be able to adapt to changes to keep your career interesting and successful."

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