Lee Worden

The Professionals Cohort (California)

Lee Worden (California)

I’m an applied mathematician who has worked on evolutionary biology and cooperative social dynamics. For the last ten years or so I’ve been doing modeling of infectious disease transmission, most recently as per of Travis Porco’s group in the Francis I. Proctor Foundation at UCSF, and I’ve been working on COVID since March 2020. 

At first I was working on fairly complex models of the disease process, which we used to provide projections of hospital demand to local and state health departments for planning purposes.

While I’m still doing COVID-19 modeling research, I noticed that people were consistently asking for up-to-date estimates of the reproduction number in the Bay Area.

The reproduction number, referred to as R – the number of cases caused by a single case on average – is a summary of how strongly the outbreak is growing or shrinking, that can be used to evaluate how well control strategies are working.

Estimating reproduction numbers can be made as sophisticated and complex as you like, but useful estimates can be done simply, and I realized that I could provide them as a service. I adapted some code I already had (having done similar analyses of measles and Ebola outbreaks) to make local and state R values from each day’s COVID case counts. To make it into a daily tracker website I assembled a team of volunteers from friends and colleagues to get it set up and keep it going, and we have had it running at https://ca-covid-r.info since June 2020. 

I believe this nomination is for the website, so as far as I’m concerned it is the team who is nominated: https://ca-covid-r.info/#Credits

As for myself, I’m continuing to work on COVID modeling focusing on outbreaks in congregate settings that drive racial disparities in the disease’s spread. In particular I’m working with the CalPROTECT project (https://amend.us/calprotect/) on describing and analyzing the horrible, extreme outbreaks that have occurred in the California prison system.

Being a descendant of refugees from the German concentration camps where so many people died from infectious diseases, with the racial disparities in imprisonment in the US, and the pandemic control measures that are necessary – serious reduction in prison population – not being carried out, I am committed to documenting and opposing this abuse of prisoners. 

Click here to follow Lee on Twitter

Jay Metzger

Jay Metzger says 2020 was quite a year:

Jay Metzger (Rhode Island)

As the GIS Manager for the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), Jay was activated onto the Planning team for the COVID-19 Pandemic. As the GIS Planner for the Rhode Island COVID-19 Pandemic Response, Jay was tasked with bringing GIS solutions to the pandemic response, and to maintain ethical data governance working with the COVID-19 Data Epidemiologists.

Jay created and deployed the RIDOH COVID-19 Data ArcGIS Hub Site, which started as one Hub site and has grown to over ten total sites in the RIDOH COVID-19 Data Hub environment. Jay’s RIDOH GIS COVID-19 Team were the driving force behind the data visualizations on the Hub sites. Since its inception in April of 2020, the site has seen 3 million hits, and has become an integral resource among internal RIDOH staff, external partners, and the public as a whole.

Jay was also the acting President for the NEURISA Board of Directors in the year 2020. During his role as President Jay lead a group of amazing GIS Professionals, through the COVID-19 Pandemic, and into a very successful NEURISA Day 2020 Conference.

The conference brought together GIS Professionals worldwide, as the NEURISA team hosted three days of discussions about the power of data and GIS. The NEURISA Day 2020 conference’s agenda spot lighted important topics such as Social Justice and Equity, Climate Change, and Making a Difference in our Communities, but was anchored by a Keynote discussion about Data and Ethics with Rebekah Jones

Jay is incredibly proud of the work that he has been involved with, and is completely honored to be mentioned for this award. When not wearing his GIS cape, Jay is busy with his wife, Kelly, and two daughters, Zoe and Violet, as they adventure across Rhode Island. Excelsior!  

Chris McMahan

The Professionals Cohort (South Carolina)

Christopher McMahan (South Carolina)

About Chris:

I am an Associate Professor in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at Clemson University. As a statistician, my research interests include developing diagnostic testing strategies and infectious disease modeling.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I joined an interdisciplinary public health team that was tasked with devising, evaluating, and operationalizing various mitigation strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19 at Clemson University.

I completed my Bachelor’s degree majoring in mathematics, minoring in physics, at Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN.

I then earned a master’s degree in mathematics at Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky. I then completed a doctoral degree in statistics at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

After completing my Ph.D., I joined Clemson University as an assistant professor, and I was recently promoted to the rank of associate. In addition to my teaching responsibilities, I also consult with Biorealm and serve as a Visiting Professor at BINUS University.

My research interests include, but are not limited to, categorical data analysis, group testing, survival data analysis, nonparametric methods, measurement error models, spatio-temporal modeling, statistical computing, Bayesian parametric/nonparametric estimation, high dimensional regression techniques, epidemiology/public health, and biomedical applications.

A few words from those who nominated Chris:

“Dr. McMahan is a statistician at Clemson University where he has used his skillset to help keep our community safe. He helped develop and implement a novel surveillance-based informative testing strategy for SARS-CoV-2 detection. That strategy and the continuous work he has done to improve the models has allowed our University to safely remain open. Dr. McMahan has mentored several graduate students, preparing them to lead the next pandemic, and cares deeply about their growth. He is a voice of reason – calm and collected – never seeking credit – but responsible for so much of our success. Chris has become a close friend and I feel very lucky to have gotten to know him over this past year. He and his wife have brought my family several meals while we were struggling with a cancer diagnosis. He reaches out to us constantly. In short, he continually has stepped up in the continuous crises that all of us have experienced since the beginning of the pandemic. He is a data hero.”

Click here to see the Clemson University COVID-19 Dashboard

Lior Rennert

The Specialists Cohort (South Carolina)

From the Greenville Journal:

Lior Rennert (South Carolina)

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemicLior Rennert has been knee-deep in researching the best ways to study the spread of the novel coronavirus in order to mitigate its reach. 

Rennert, assistant professor in Clemson’s department of public health sciences and a biostatistician, is leading a significant part of the university’s response to COVID-19.

Last fall, Rennert and his team decided to look into pre-arrival testing before students came back to campus.

“We essentially developed models that showed that if you test everybody before arrival or upon arrival, you can severely limit the outbreak size and delay them as well,” says Rennert. He says that he gives Clemson credit for conducting pre-arrival testing even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had yet to explicitly recommend it.

Another aspect of planning against the coronavirus focused on what Rennert calls a new “surveillance-based informative testing” strategy — research currently under peer-review. Through random testing, the university identified hot spots in residence halls ​and targeted their testing resources to test these students. Such targeted tests were twice as likely to detect positive cases compared to random tests, ​which allowed university officials to quickly act to isolate and quarantine students and help stem the spread of the virus.

“It was really effective,” Rennert says. “It drove down prevalence by almost 40% over a two-week implementation period.”

Dr. Rennert’s ‘Tasks’:

  1. Leading modeling efforts at Clemson University (along with Christopher McMahan and Corey Kalbaugh) to evaluate and implement testing strategies for mitigation of SARS-CoV-2 spread
  2. Implemented surveillance-based informative testing on the university campus, where I would monitor Covid-19 prevalence on campus and direct testing resources to residence halls experiencing outbreaks
    1. https://greenvillejournal.com/healthcare/clemson-professor-develops-models-to-show-covid-19-spread-and-help-vaccine-rollout/
    2. Manuscript detailing this strategy accepted for publication at The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health (link to come in next 7-10 days)
  3. Directing Clemson’s Covid-19 dashboard
    1. https://www.clemson.edu/covid-19/testing/dashboard.html
  4. Working with South Carolina health systems and departments of health to efficiently allocate vaccines to underserved communities (using data-driven models)

A few words from those who nominated Lior:

“Dr. Rennert is a biostatistician at Clemson University where he has used his skillset to help keep our community safe. He helped develop and implement a novel surveillance-based informative testing strategy for SARS-CoV-2 detection. That strategy and the continuous work he has done to improve the models has allowed our University to safely remain open. At the same time, Dr. Rennert has been a critical voice to our statewide vaccine rollout. He has developed models to help increase the equitable distribution of vaccines in SC. I am an epidemiologist and I credit Lior with helping to keep me positive during what has been an incredibly challenging year for my profession. Personally, he has become a close friend and I am really lucky to get to work with such a thoughtful and kind person. He cares about others well-being above his own and represents the best of what we can be as public health professionals. He is a data hero to all of us in SC.”

Click here to see the Clemson University COVID-19 Dashboard

Lauren Gardner

The Specialists Cohort (Maryland)

Dr. Lauren Gardner (Maryland)

Lauren Gardner joined the team behind the internationally-heralded Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard, along with creator Ensheng Dong, who was her Ph.D. student at the time.

Dr. Lauren Gardner and her team at the CSSE built the COVID-19 global tracking map in January 2020, creating the most comprehensive publicly available data set on the pandemic.

Dr. Gardner’s data drives much of the CRC’s analysis and serves as a vital resource for millions of users to track the pandemic.

Since the pandemic began, Johns Hopkins experts have collecting and analyzing domestic and international data about COVID-19. The effort began on Jan. 22, 2020 with one of the first global maps to track Covid-19 cases and deaths. It evolved on March 3, 2020 into the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The CRC’s more than 260 sources include 182 from local, state, and federal agencies in the United States.

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Gardner:

“It is the best dashboard with the most detailed data and visualization. “

Click here to visit the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard

Chris Prener

The Professionals Cohort (Missouri)

Chris Prener (Missouri)

I am an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Saint Louis University (St. Louis, MO), specializing in urban and medical sociology as well as GIS.

I’ve been posting nightly updates on Twitter [1] and my Missouri tracking website [2] since late March, 2020. I also have a weekly newsletter [3] that recaps weekly trends in COVID across Missouri.

I’ve focused my time on creating accessible maps and data visualizations that bring together related data from separate dashboards, such as my regional ZIP code-level maps of St. Louis [4] and Kansas City [5].

In building the site, I’ve also created an open source data workflow that has supported local public health departments, hospital systems, and media outlets.

[1] https://twitter.com/chrisprener
[2] https://slu-opengis.github.io/covid_daily_viz/
[3] https://chrisprener.substack.com
[4] https://slu-opengis.github.io/covid_daily_viz/stl.html#Infection_Rates_by_ZCTA_(Zip_Code)
[5] https://slu-opengis.github.io/covid_daily_viz/kc.html#Infection_Rates_by_ZCTA_(Zip_Code)

Click here to visit Chris’ website
Click here to follow Chris on Twitter

Marmi Le

The Professionals Cohort (Colorado)

This page still under construction. Check back later.

Marmi Le (California)

Marmi is a healthcare analytics veteran who has worked in the industry for two decades. 

Formerly a business intelligence developer at Children’s Hospital Colorado, she provided evidence that infectious disease preventionists’ efforts to properly isolate covid-suspected/positive patients were working, among other analyses since the start of this crisis in support of the hospital system’s covid command center. 

As cofounder of Pie and Donut Analytics last year, she wrote a two-part series of articles on Medium about being a data worker in these pandemic times – “How to make a covidiot-proof COVID-19 dashboard” and “A Tale of Two Covid-Era Data Whistleblowers.” 

You can read them here https://medium.com/swlh/how-to-make-a-covidiot-proof-covid-19-dashboard-46943bcb125d and here https://medium.com/datadriveninvestor/a-tale-of-two-covid-era-data-whistleblowers-9b71c4384851

A few words from those who submitted Marmi Le:

“Marmi has been a data hero for almost a quarter century. After working as a research associate in the finance industry for 5 years, she was laid off when the first tech bubble burst, then for the next almost two decades until November 2020 has practiced advanced data analytics in the healthcare industry. She has saved California an estimated $334M per year as statistician for the state’s Medicare program, performed a lead role in projects directly helping transplant patients and their caregivers as a data analyst and certified Improvement Advisor for Kaiser Permanente, and identified ~$40M in annual savings from Medicaid drug purchasing and served as a data science mentor at IBM Watson Health. More recently, she created dashboards and performed various ad hoc requests supporting the COVID-19 command center and infectious disease department at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Currently, Marmi is a cofounder at Pie and Donut Analytics, a consulting firm specializing in healthcare data.”

Matthew Holloway

The Professionals Cohort (Missouri)

Matthew Holloway received 15% of the thousands of nominations submitted. No other nominee comes close.

Matthew Holloway (Missouri)

“I do think the efforts here in Missouri have been remarkable,” Matthew said. “I certainly never intended or expected to find myself in the position I am in. When LPHAs across the state started contacting me with their numbers, I knew I’d be locked in to doing this for a while.”

“I started this project due to a lack of public communication relating to COVID-19 cases and deaths across Missouri, which were being grossly undercounted from the Missouri Governor’s office. I established relationships with administrators and leaders from health departments and hospitals across the state who were also in pursuit of comprehensive and accurate data. I provide (sometimes far too lengthy) text and visual updates at least five nights a week (7 days a week for the first 7 months) through Facebook, and have a little over 15,000 followers signed up. My goal has always been to provide the most accurate possible data in a manner that is accessible and understandable for all Missouri citizens to feel empowered to make informed decisions in the way they choose to respond to the pandemic.”

Click here to see Matthew’s Missouri COVID-19 data site.
Click here to see Matthew’s Facebook page.
Click here to follow Matthew on Twitter

While we work on getting our interview with Matthew up on the site, we’re going to let some (but certainly not all) of those who submitted Matthew do the talking:

“Not sure 1,000 characters are enough, but I’ll try: on a completely volunteer basis–and mostly on his own–Matthew has collated, organized, and shared data that would be (and should have been) the work of one or more state health departments, and has gone over and above to keep the people of Missouri aware of what’s happening in our state at a time when politics and other factors limited what was shared with the public. Matthew has done all of this while keeping a day job, having a young family, adding to that family, and experiencing his first pandemic like the rest of us. I can think of no better person for the award!!! Just go to his Facebook posts to see the time, energy, passion, and talent he’s put into this volunteer project, and you’ll see why so many people have come to rely on him to keep informed. He IS A TRUE COVID-19 DATA HERO! Now, is there an “Honorable Mention” category, because if there is, his wife deserves a lot of credit for supporting him in all this!”

“I feel like Matthew has been there for us since day one. Even though his Covid event, working a full time job, and raising a family, he has always been there! He is raw with us. Completely open and honest and someone that I felt that I could trust when there was no other site to turn to. I mean he definitely didn’t sugarcoat anything for us and that is what we needed, not only as a community or state, but a nation. We needed the facts. I could go on and on, but he simply is the best of the best! And his humor, well that helped me a many of rough nights when all the numbers were so overwhelming. Great Matthew. You should be so proud of all your hardwork and dedication! :-)”

“Matthew has single handedly created a Missouri covid information system available to his friends and followers on Facebook. As the project got more difficult he organized help from health departments. My husband is a physician running a covid unit. He knows Matthew personally and believes in his integrity. That’s all I needed to trust in him and his reporting.”

“The state of Missouri’s covid dashboard is junk. It’s thousands and thousands and thousands of cases behind in reporting the numbers to the residents of Missouri. Every night, Matthew gathers the Covid case and death data from each and every of the 117 jurisdictions in MO and compiles the info into graphics to let Missourians know what the actual Covid situation is like. The work he does is AMAZING. And he does this for free, after his day job, every single day, for almost a year now. He saw a need, and he jumped up and made a difference. He’s truly a hero.”

“Although I currently live in Miami Florida, Matthew Holloway lives in Joplin Missouri, which is the city I was born in. I occasionally visit Missouri, and Matthew provides me and my friends in Missouri the most complete tracking of COVID-19 infections and deaths for each of Missouri’s 114 counties, plus two other jurisdictions, including St. Louis. By providing a daily running total of new infections and deaths in each county, his updates help people to adjust their activities accordingly. He also shows the percentage of residents in various counties who have received their first vaccination and the overall percentage of Missouri residents who have received their first (12.8%) and second shots (6.6%). Matthew is very impressed with the daily communication provided by the St. Louis Metropolitan COVID-19 task force, but not as impressed with the communication that has been provided at a state level. He has attempted to compensate for this, and I think he has done an excellent job!”

“When the state of Missouri failed its residents, Matthew picked up the slack and started providing sound data and visualizations along with neutral narrative that allowed the every day person to understand the state of COVID across our state. Not only has his narrative been informational, Matthew never restricted his good humor and candidness providing none stop smiles and laughs during such a down and dark year. I should also mention that this is not his job and he purely does this out of the goodness of his heart, which speaks volumes to his character and how deserving he is this reward!!!”

“Matthew’s data has been consistent daily, since March 2020. He meticulously sources his data in a transparent way, that anyone can check, as he lists them. His graphs and information have been available to the nearby city councils, and clinics, anyone who needs data points to get across the seriousness and local statistics. This information has influenced so many in their COVID mitigation efforts and daily planning. He is courteous to a fault, with naysayers, simply acknowledging them, but not taking it personally. His facts help one weed through the misinformation and skewing of information. He gives praise where credit is due. All of this has been done as a VOLUNTEER, because of his dedication to providing this service to his community. All while raising a family and working. He also experienced COVID himself and his own family, while doing the project, and still continued data during that time when he was able. He this has immense empathy for those who have or will experience it.”

“Has taken it upon himself to be the most reliable, transparent, trustworthy source of information on COVID-19 in Missouri early 2020. I am a healthcare worker and his data has been invaluable to me at a time when so many things were unsure. I always knew I could trust Matt’s information, that it was not biased and it was the best sources. It helped me make informed decisions to protect myself, my family, and my patients.”

“I’ve been following Matthew’s Facebook posts since March or April of last year, and I immediately appreciated that he was presenting the data in a way that was much more accessible and understandable. As the summer wore on, I started following my local health department sites, so I volunteered to Matthew that I’d be happy to collect the numbers from the counties all around me. I joined his little team in September. The value of his work became even more apparent when the state data was transferred from the DHSS to an independent contractor for a hefty sum, no doubt. The numbers mysteriously started to fall way behind what our health departments were reporting. Matthew data had always been ahead of the state numbers, but now the difference was profound. I appreciate Matthew’s sense of humor, how he shares himself with us all, and how careful he is not to say anything that is too political so as not to alienate people. It’s an honor to help him. I wish his work wasn’t needed, but it is.”

Click here to see Matthew’s Missouri COVID-19 data site.
Click here to see Matthew’s Facebook page.
Click here to follow Matthew on Twitter

Micah Pollak

The Professionals Cohort (Indiana)

Micah Pollak (Indiana)

Micah Pollak still remembers his first tweet about COVID-19 data in Indiana from March 22.

Indiana launched a poorly-formatted red-dot map, with one red dot for every county that had reported cases with no other information, as the only initial public resource for the public.

“I was looking back at some of my earliest Tweets on Covid and one was something like ‘I couldn’t find the graph I wanted so I made it myself,’ and I think that captures why a lot of us got into this in the first place,” Micah said.

What the state was putting out wasn’t enough.

Micah found the data presentation inadequate, sometimes misleading, and not answering urgent, basic questions. So he started exploring data on his own and then shared his analysis on Twitter, not expecting it to pick up the popularity or following he now has.

Micah is an associate professor of economics and the Director of the Center for Economic Education & Research (CEER) at Indiana University Northwest. So epidemiology was outside of his comfort zone, he said. What he did feel comfortable doing, though, was advanced statistics and data communication about what was happening.

“With so much happening outside our control during this global pandemic, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless,” Micah said. “By analyzing and reporting on COVID-19 data, with a special focus on my state and local region, I can empower people through a better understanding of what is happening in the world around them to regain their confidence and make informed decisions about their daily life.”

He’s passionate about education and serving his community, and sees his time during COVID-19 as an effort in cutting through the chaos and conspiracies to bring valuable data and analysis to the forefront.

He’d be remiss not to mention his frequent partner-in-data, Gabriel Bosslet, another one of our nominees in our Specialists group.

A few words from those who nominated Micah:

“Takes what is sometimes dry, confusing, gobblygook information and makes it interesting and easy to understand, and includes some much needed levity during these trying times.”

“The state of Indiana has not provided reliable information and Micah put everything in perspective as a parent, family member, and professional. “

Click here to follow Micah on Twitter
Click here to visit Micah’s website