Demissie Alemayehu, PhD.
Vice President and Head of Statistical Research & Data Science Center, Pfizer Inc.
Adjunct Professor and Director of Graduate Studies (MA)
Statistics Department, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027
Demissie Alemayehu, PhD, is Vice President and Head of the Statistical Research & Data Science Center at Pfizer Inc, and holds a joint appointment with Columbia University, where he is also Director of Graduate Studies (MA) in the Statistics Department.
Dr. Alemayehu obtained his first degree from Addis Ababa University, where he was the recipient of the 1980 Science Faculty Gold Medal. Subsequently, he earned a PhD degree in Statistics from the University of California at Berkeley. In the United States, Dr. Alemayehu has received numerous accolades, including election as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association in recognition of his superlative achievements in original research, teaching and service to the profession. Dr Alemayehu is an active member of various professional societies and institutions, and serves on advisory boards in major universities, including Stevens Institute of Technology and RUSIS at Oregon State University. He has served as a reviewer for and on the editorial boards of major scientific journals. He has published extensively on statistical methodology and applications in medical research and has coauthored at least two monographs. Dr Alemayehu’s research interest spans diverse topics ranging from asymptotic theory in mathematical statistics to leveraging modern machine learning tools in drug development.
More recently, Dr Alemayehu has been interested in exploring the potential of the digital revolution to influence decision making in such developing countries as Ethiopia, with emphasis on the advancement of good governance and protection of natural and cultural heritage.
Dr Alemayehu has been following with passion the activities of P2P over the decades, thanks in part to his acquaintance with Dr Enawgaw Mehari that dates back to their formative years at the General Wingate High School in Addis Ababa.
Dr Alemayehu is an avid reader of novels. His all-time favorites are Addis Alemayehu’s ፍቅር እስከመቃብር and James Joyce’s Ulysses.
P2P e-Health Newsletter (p2p e-HN): Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Demissie Alemayehu (DA): I was born in Debre Berhan, a small town in Northern Shoa, and once the seat of Atse Zerayakob. I completed both my elementary and junior high school education in Debre Berhan, before subsequently joining the General Wingate school in Addis Ababa.
p2p e-HN: How and why did you get into the field of statistics?
DA: That is a long story. Right after the “Ediget Behibret” campaign, I went back to medical school at Addis Ababa University. However, the Red Terror forced many of us to seek other opportunities. It was while working as a statistician at an international organization called ILCA that I fell in love with statistics and eventually changed my field.
p2p e-HN: What motivates you most in your line of profession?
DA: Statistics is a field through which one can forge lasting partnerships with professionals engaged in every conceivable area of research. In my current role in the pharmaceutical industry, nothing gives me more gratification than contributing toward the advancement of evidence-based medicine through the application of sound statistical principles and concepts.
p2p e-HN What is your involvement in P2P health-related activities?
DA: While I am not directly involved in P2P activities, I have partnered with many medical researchers who work tirelessly to advance healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa. In one instance, for example, I collaborated on a paper relating to the “design and conduct of a pharmacovigilance study involving mass drug administration in a resource constrained setting.”
p2p e-HN Any advice you want to offer to young people who want to get into the field of statistics, especially medical/health-related statistics?
DA: With the unfolding digital revolution, and the growing emphasis on personalized medicine, statistics has taken center stage as one the most relevant and fascinating fields of study. According to a recent report, the anticipated demand for statisticians in the coming several decades is expected to be far greater than that for any other discipline. A couple of years ago, a Google executive famously predicted that “the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians.”