Black History Month Highlight: Dr. Alisa Stephens-Shields

By Elaona Lemoto

For Black History Month this year, students in the Biostatistics PhD program will highlight a Black statistician or biostatistician each week who has made tremendous contributions to the field. Dr. Alisa Stephens-Shields has been selected for this week. 

Dr. Alisa Stephens-Shields is currently an Associate Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She was raised in Teaneck, New Jersey and discovered her interest for problem-solving at a young age through various games and activities with her siblings and neighborhood friends.

For college, she decided to attend University of Maryland, College Park. During her junior year, she discovered a job profile of a biostatistician. She also recalled a conversation with a dormitory floormate about public health being the study of health in populations, rather than individuals. This really interested her so the following summer, she decided to do a research program at Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry. That experience really solidified this career path for her. She decided to continue to pursue biostatistics as a part-time research assistant at the National Cancer Institute in the spring of her senior year. After a gap year that included a six-month community service immersion in Costa Rica, she enrolled in the doctoral program in biostatistics at Harvard University and eventually graduated in 2012.

Now, Dr. Stephens-Shields is an Associate Professor at University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She focuses on clinical trials, in particular cluster-randomized trials, longitudinal data analysis, and causal inference with an emphasis on semiparametric methods. She also works in the advancement of patient-reported outcomes to help inform population-appropriate trial endpoints. 

Dr. Stephens-Shields collaborates in several clinical areas, including pediatrics, chronic pain, rheumatology, and endocrinology. Her current collaborations include the Testosterone Trials, the Multidisciplinary Approach to Pelvic Pain Network and several projects in the prevention and treatment of HIV.

In 2018, she received the Distinguished Faculty Award at UPenn that recognizes exceptional faculty members whose work epitomizes the strong collaborations across its three core disciplines to promote health, science, and education. Additionally, she was the recipient of the inaugural Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies Leadership Academy award and has held elected positions in the American Statistical Association Section on Statistics in Epidemiology and in the Eastern North American Region of the International Biometrics Society. Finally in 2023, she became an American Statistical Association Fellow for her professional contributions, leadership, and commitment to the field of statistical science.