Once an aspiring doctor, Healthcare Analytics Manager Lauren Schreibstein found her professional niche using math and data analysis to help keep New Yorkers healthy. The most populous city in the United States is much a healthier one thanks to this week's STEM rock star!
Healthcare Analytics Manager for the New York City Department of Health
Because job titles only say so much, tell us more about your job!
I work with lots of data, mostly coming from electronic medical records for NYC residents. We use it to answer questions about the health of New Yorkers, and see how it differs based on factors like race and neighborhood. We look primarily at chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. I mostly write database queries and make sure that the results we are getting are answering the questions we think they are. Then I hand it off to our epidemiologists who do the heavy-lifting on the statistics side.
What do you love most about your job?
I work with a brilliant group of people and I strongly believe in what we are doing. So much health data is being collected by doctors everyday, so using that to help those who are most at risk makes sense.
How often do you use math in a typical work day?
I use logic all the time when I am writing database queries. I let Excel and SAS (a statistical software application) do most of my math, but understanding the principals is essential to making sure the results are what I would expect and I didn't make a mistake with my input. I'm sure I draw on my math knowledge at least 20 times a day without even being aware of it.
Let's backtrack a little. Fill in the blank: When I was little, I wanted to be ___________ when I grew up!
Did you like math when you were younger?
I found it frustrating when I was in elementary/middle school but once I got to high school, something just clicked and I started to love it. (Except geometry. I hated doing proofs.)
Which components of your education (formal or informal) helped you get to where you are today?
When I got to college, I knew I liked math, but was unsure I wanted to major in it. I took an intro computer programming class and immediately fell in love. I majored in computer science with a math minor. I spent about 10 years programming my own algorithms to forecast sales of newspapers and then watches, which strongly drew on my computer science and math background.
I knew I wanted to move into the healthcare field so went back and got my master's degree in biomedical informatics, which is the intersection of health, information, and technology. I learned through that how to apply my math and data skills to health. I did a practicum at the health department, which was exactly where I wanted to be, and they hired me on after that.
What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
Everyone I work with is passionate about public health and we are all working together to try to improve people's lives. I'm very much behind the scenes, but knowing I'm able to do what I love for that purpose is a great feeling.
What advice do you have for kids interested in pursuing a STEM-based career?
Don't settle until you find something you love! If you already know exactly what you want to do, that's great. But if not, think about your interests and talk to other people. You may discover an amazing career you never knew existed!