University of Wisconsin
School of Medicine and Public Health

Everyday remarkable: behind the scenes with biostatistician Fay Osman, MPH

Department of Medicine biostatistician Fay Osman, MPH

“I think most people would say, ‘I like my job.’ But I would say, ‘I love my job.’” 

For Fay Osman, MPH, assistant researcher, Administration, her work as a biostatistician in the Department of Medicine’s Office of Research Services is as much about people and collaboration as it is about numbers and math. 

Recognizing that statistical analysis can be intimidating, Osman works closely with junior faculty and learners across all divisions to not just “crunch numbers,” but also help interpret and communicate findings.

A Love for Research

Osman joined the department in November 2018 after completing a master’s in public health from the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. 

There, she completed coursework on epidemiology, statistics and environmental health, while working on research on environmental exposure in children. She also provided statistical consulting services for other students’ projects. A faculty advisor recognized her skill and suggested she pursue a career in biostatistics.

“I had [originally] wanted to be a clinician, but my love for research was greater,” she recalls. “I wanted to find a balance between the two…and it just made sense that biostatistics would be something I’d love doing.”

In the Office of Research Services, Osman splits her time between biostatistical consultation with researchers and carrying out specific project tasks. Deliverables may include a basic sample size calculation, a large-scale data analysis, a draft of methodology language for an abstract, a graphic for a manuscript or a poster presentation.

“There is a process, but it all depends on what the researcher is looking for,” she explains. “Researchers tell me what their vision is, and I make recommendations from my skill set.” 

Osman says her goal is to support individual projects, and also help investigators better understand their data so they can become more self-sufficient. 

To that end, she encourages researchers to get in touch and ask questions early, and over the course of a project, appreciates any opportunity to help expand their knowledge.

“When a person works with you once, and they come back, it makes you feel like you made an impact,” she says.

Thriving on Connections

Osman says that the community of colleagues in the department—and the broad content of the work itself—are major sources of job satisfaction. 

“Our Office of Research Services has many individuals who work together to help researchers, so if I fall short in something, I always have someone to go to,” she says. “The support is really great, and our researchers really want to do research.” 

Her professional affinity for interesting experiences and people mirrors her personal life. “My background is pretty diverse,” she shares. “I started traveling when I was about 14 years old and experienced lots of cultures.”

She loves exercise and running, especially with friends and family, and is an avid cook. “I recently became obsessed with sushi,” she says. “But my favorite meal to make would be spaghetti and meatballs. I love making it because I think everybody I make it for loves it, too!”

Osman recognizes that her public-health background may seem unique for a biostatistician. But the two fields are more closely related than they appear.

“One of the key things about being in biostatistics and public health is that everything applies,” she asserts. “Everything is public health, and everything can be applicable to clinical research. We’re often looking at how the individual lives, we’re looking at who they are, their age, gender, the type of occupation that they do… things in their life that may predict the outcome that we’re looking for.”

“That’s why biostatistics is a really interesting field,” she continues. “You don’t just get to do one thing—you get to do them all, and that’s what’s fascinating.”

Editor’s note: This is the seventh article in our Everyday Remarkable series, which tells the stories of staff members within the Department of Medicine. We’ll go behind the scenes with staff to give Vital Signs readers a glimpse into the roles, responsibilities, challenges, and joys that they encounter every day. Have a suggestion for a person or job that you think we should cover? Contact us.