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May 28, 2014

Teaching with JMP, part 2

After writing the post on Teaching statistics with JMP last month, I didn’t think about a follow-on post since we had so many wonderful comments. But when we heard from Roger Hoerl at Union College about the thesis his student, Keilah Creedon, wrote (using JMP for the designed experiment part), it seemed a great opportunity to call attention to some good work.

When we hosted Roger and Ronald Snee for a webcast last year, Roger had just transitioned from leading GE Global Research to teaching at Union College. Roger and Ronald are the authors of Statistical Thinking: Improving Business Performance, an excellent book and one we recommend.

Roger is also co-author with Presha Neidermeyer of Use What You Have: Resolving the HIV/AIDS Pandemic. Roger kindly shared a copy of this book, which takes a statistical-thinking approach to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In his words: “We have a disease that’s preventable and it’s treatable and billions of dollars have been spent on it. It’s the most studied disease in history and yet millions of people are still dying. Why? How can this be? It doesn’t add up.”

Thus, he chose to spend a sabbatical he was awarded studying this pandemic and writing about it. He and his co-author take a long-term look at a complex problem, recognizing that change is constant and that you have to look at the big picture with a goal of incremental improvement over time.

Keilah’s thesis, "Evaluating the Connection Between Gender Based Violence and HIV/AIDS," takes a statistical-thinking approach as well. She focused on one of the goals of the United Nations joint program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) of eliminating gender inequalities, which includes addressing violence — a key risk factor for women with HIV.

She expanded one of UNAIDS' Excel-based models to incorporate the effect of gender-based violence with a sensitivity analysis of the revised model, using a designed experiment approach. The results indicate that gender-based violence is a significant contributor to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and that addressing gender-based violence should be an important goal of the HIV/AIDS response. But Keilah’s statistical thinking didn’t stop there. She went on to point out many ways to address gender-based violence and noted a few programs that seem particularly promising (Stepping Stones and One Man Can).

It has been said that teaching is the most noble profession. Students who learn how to think statistically is a gift that can keep on giving, a philosophy of learning and action that makes the world a better place. Our thanks to all the teachers and mentors who inspire statistical thinking and to the students who are motivated to put this skill to good use.

Community Member

Roger Hoerl wrote:

Anne: Thanks very much for commenting on this work. I think it is very important. The UNAIDS Methods of Transition (MoT) Model is a useful tool for countries to predict HIV/AIDS infections, and also to identify leverage points where intervention efforts might produce the most dramatic improvements. One limitation of the current MoT model is that it does not incorporate the effect of gender-based violence. Researchers agree that this is a key driver of new infections. Not only does sexual violence against women directly transmit HIV, but physical violence against women makes it more difficult for them to have control over their own sexuality, and make their own decisions. This is also increasing the rate of HIV infections. Keilah was able to modify the MoT model to incorporate variables related to gender-based violence using South African data, based on the most recent literature on this topic. The results are surprising, and I think quite noteworthy. To defeat HIV/AIDS, clearly we must address violence against women.

Keilah and I found JMP's DOE package to be extremely helpful in setting up the designed experiment that she used to identity the variables in the revised MoT model that had the greatest impact on infections (incidence rate). She ended up using a fractional design to reduce the time required for the DOE, and JMP enabled her to set up, run, and analyze the design in a straightforward manner. Some of the JMP graphics she produced are included in her final thesis. Good science combined with good data and good software is a powerful combination!

Keilah is leaving the US shortly for her Fullbright Scholarship in Rwanda, but if any readers would like a copy of her final thesis, I would be happy to send it to them. Thanks again, Anne.

Roger Hoerl

Anne Milley wrote:

Roger, it is very important work indeed and we are grateful for your comment underscoring that! Thanks so much for sharing Keilah's work--and that she is leaving for a Fullbright scholarship to Rwanda. What a great experience and we wish her all the best! Both of you, keep up the great work!