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Domenic Reda


M.S. Statistics 1976

Director, Hines Cooperative Studies Program Coordinating Center, Department of Veterans Affairs

Written by: Shannon Knapp, Ph.D. candidate in Statistics 

Domenic Reda takes satisfaction in knowing that what he does not only results in important advancements in statistical methodology, but also has a profound impact on medical care. Reda directs a staff of over 40 professionals that develop, coordinate, and support large, multi-hospital, clinical trials, "the results of which often have a major impact on the direction of health care in the VA and nationwide."

The studies the Hines Cooperative Studies Program Coordinating Center conducts are of national and international prominence. The vast majority of Reda’s over 100 research articles have been published in prestigious medical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Annals of Internal Medicine, the Archives of Internal Medicine, Circulation, and the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. A study on coronary artery revascularization prior to major elective vascular surgery was named a Top Medical Story of 2005 by the editors of Journal Watch (a digest from the publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine). Other research projects Reda and his center have been involved with recently include a National Institute of Health funded study on the use of glucosamine and chondroitin for the treatment of arthritis (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Press Release); a study on whether aggressive management of diabetes is better than current diabetes management strategies in the prevention of heart attack, stroke, and death; and a study on deep brain stimulation in patients with Parkinson’s disease. The Center is now also moving into smaller studies of emerging research areas such as adult stem cell treatment for patients with heart disease and a brain-computer interface to improve the ability of patients with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) to communicate.

As an undergraduate, Reda majored in Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. During his junior year, Reda was taking primarily math classes, which included probability and statistics courses, as Statistics was part of the Math department at UIC. "I really enjoyed these courses, especially the more applied courses, using statistical packages to analyze real datasets." He spoke with one of the Statistics professors in his department who recommended graduate school and that he contact Purdue.

At Purdue, Reda benefited from the attention of the faculty members there. In particular he recalls Professors George McCabe and Virgil Anderson "offered an encouraging environment to the students with applied interests." Reda also remembers a social atmosphere in the department. Faculty members would host graduate students for a social evening, graduate students would race wheeled office chairs down the hallway, much to the dismay of the faculty and Norma Lucas, and the statistics graduate student group was started at that time. But more importantly to the evolution of his career, Reda took on a consulting project in life sciences. "I really liked it and started thinking about biostatistics."

After graduating from Purdue, Reda spent a year in the business environment, then switched to a biostatistics project on air pollution and health. Reda recalls one of the study’s findings was that "in Chicago on days when air pollution was up there were more hospital admissions."

In 1980, Reda went to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs Hines Cooperative Studies Program Coordinating Center in the Chicago area. He started as a statistical programmer and was soon promoted to Biostatistician, but Reda quickly realized, "there is a glass ceiling in medical research if you don’t have a doctorate." He knew he would have to return to school if he wanted to "continue to advance in a statistical leadership role." So Reda went back to school while working full time. "It was pretty challenging. While I was taking my courses I was able to handle it pretty well, but it got harder when I got to the dissertation stage. . . . I wouldn’t recommend working full time while working on the dissertation." The difficulties of balancing work and a dissertation were exasperated by the fact that Reda was receiving more responsibilities at work. After passing exams, Reda was promoted to Associate Director, overseeing the biostatistical group. However, Reda did realize one major benefit of working while pursuing his doctorate: "My dissertation topic came directly out of a common problem that our studies were encountering: not getting enough patients into the study." This problem was typically dealt with informally, but Reda "developed a statistical monitoring and decision rule approach to determine that the study was unlikely to be completed on time and that a modification was needed." Reda completed his doctorate at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2001 and received the William Haenszel award for best dissertation in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. He was appointed Director of the Hines Cooperative Studies Program Coordinating Center the following year.

Reda appreciates his position for the "intellectual collaboration with doctors who are leaders in their field" and "simultaneously educating them on statistical principles. There is a lot of mutual education." As Director, Reda’s duties are increasingly administrative, but he continues to have his hand in the statistics." Any study that gets planned, I’m on the planning committee." Reda participates in study design and analysis; he produces and reviews manuscripts, especially for statistical content. Much of the analysis he does these days is supervisory, directing junior statisticians on what analyses should be done and reviewing output with them. Additionally, since finishing his doctorate, Reda has started teaching an evening course each semester at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Reda teaches Design and Analysis of Clinical Trials as well as Biostatistics, a required course for graduate students in the School of Public Health. He was also elected to the Board of Directors for the Society for Clinical Trials and chairs the Society’s education committee.

Reda advises statistics students, "especially if working in an applied field (medical trials, clinical research), what will make you most effective is your communication and writing skills and your willingness to learn the investigators’ language and talk to them in their terms."

Domenic Reda received the Statistics Outstanding Alumni Award from Purdue University, Department of Statistics in 2007.

To read more Alumni Profiles, please visit our Alumni Profiles archive.    

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