2016 Fisher Lecturer Winner

Alice S. Whittemore
Stanford University School of Medicine


The 2016 Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies (COPSS) Fisher Lectureship Committee selected Alice S. Whittemore of Stanford University School of Medicine to deliver the Fisher Lecture at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Chicago. The citation for Dr. Whittemore's plaque reads:

“For fundamental contributions to biostatistics and epidemiology, covering a wide range of topics from environmental risk assessment to genetic linkage analysis, genetic association studies and cancer epidemiology; for bringing her statistical and mathematical insight to bear on the collection and interpretation of scientific data; for her leadership in large consortia of cancer studies; and for being a role model for many young scientists."

Dr. Whittemore's talk is titled “Personalizing Disease Prevention: Statistical Challenges."


The recent presidential allocation of US resources for precision medicine reflects a national focus on personalized health care. Patients and their doctors are increasingly basing such care on statistical risk models that use a person's lifestyle and genetic covariates to assign him or her a probability of developing a disease or other adverse health outcome in a given future time period. The use of such personal risk models will increase as we learn more about the genetic and epigenetic causes of disease, and as the routine sequencing of peoples' entire genomes becomes practical. In this talk I will describe some of the statistical problems that arise when evaluating the accuracy and utility of these models. These problems would have interested Sir Ronald A. Fisher, who did much of his seminal statistical work while serving as the Arthur Balfour Professor of Genetics at the University of Cambridge.