Joint UCLA-Harvard study led by PhD student Jay Xu finds substantial racial/ethnic disparities in years of potential life lost attributable to COVID-19

A joint UCLA-Harvard study, led by UCLA Biostatistics PhD student Jay Xu, quantified
racial/ethnic disparities in years of potential life lost (YPLL) attributable to COVID-19, finding a
consistent pattern across states of non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics experiencing
disproportionately high and non-Hispanic Whites experiencing disproportionately low COVID-
19-attributable YPLL.

The team comprised of researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and the
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. UCLA faculty on the study include Tom Belin
(Biostatistics), Ron Brookmeyer (Biostatistics, Dean of the UCLA Fielding School of Public
Health), Marc Suchard (Biostatistics, Human Genetics, Computational Medicine) and Christina
Ramirez (Biostatistics).

Using years of potential life lost – an epidemiological quantity that measures mortality via the
difference between an upper reference age (75 for this study) minus age at death if positive and
0 otherwise – to measure mortality, Xu’s team analyzed COVID-19 mortality data from the
National Center for Health Statistics as of December 30, 2020, characterizing YPLL-based
disparities in two ways: (1) estimating percentages of total YPLL by race/ethnicity, contrasting
them with their respective percent population shares, and (2) estimating age-adjusted YPLL rate
ratios (RR) – anchoring comparisons to non-Hispanic Whites – in each of 45 states and the
District of Columbia (D.C.).

To estimate these quantities, an adaptation of a novel Monte Carlo simulation procedure to
quantify the uncertainty of YPLL-based estimates that was recently developed by Xu, Belin,
and Ramirez [1] was used. For comparison, Xu’s team also calculated the corresponding
percentages total deaths and age-adjusted mortality rate ratios. The results of the analysis
revealed that racial/ethnic disparities in the COVID-19 mortality burden are generally greater in
magnitude when measuring mortality in terms of YPLL compared to (age-irrespective) death
counts, reflecting the greater intensity of the disparities at younger ages. Xu’s team also found
substantial state-to-state variability in the magnitudes of the estimated racial/ethnic disparities,
suggesting that they are driven in large part by social determinants of health whose degree of
association with race/ethnicity varies by state.

The associated paper is currently undergoing peer review, but a preliminary non-peer reviewed
report is available on medRxiv, accessible at

[1] Xu, Jay J., Thomas R. Belin, and Christina M. Ramirez. "Uncertainty quantification of years
of potential life lost-based estimates from mortality data summarized as death counts within age
intervals." Annals of Epidemiology 55 (2020): 1-3. Available at:

Dr. Christina Ramirez, professor in the department of Biostatistics has a new publication on PNAS

Dr. Christina Ramirez, professor in the department of Biostatistics has a new publication on PNAS.

An evidence review of face masks against COVID-19 . This paper is being coauthored with Biostatistics Ph.D. student, Gregory Watson and Professor Anne Rimoin from Epidemiology. This article was also mentioned by the New York Times.

Posted 13 January 2021

Professor Sudipto Banerjee Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Professor Sudipto Banerjee was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for innovative contributions to Bayesian methodology with focus on spatially indexed information; for high-impact applications; and for educational and mentoring excellence, professional service, and academic administration. For more information, visit:

Posted 8 January 2021

Crystal Shaw Wins Award For Individual F31 Fellowship

Congratulations to Crystal Shaw for the National Institute of Aging (one of the branches of the National Institutes of Health) awarding $119,456 through June 2023 for an individual F31 fellowship to support Crystal's Ph.D. studies and dissertation research. The award emerged from an April 2020 grant application Crystal prepared entitled "Link, transport, integrate: a Bayesian data integration framework for scalable algorithmic dementia classification in population-representative studies".

The proposed project, which builds on her Graduate Student Researcher role with Professor Elizabeth Rose Mayeda in the UCLA Department of Epidemiology, involves using modern statistical-computing strategies to bridge multiple data sources to enhance the utility of population-based surveys for research on Alzheimer's disease and other precursors of dementia. Department of Biostatistics mentors on the project include Professor Tom Belin, Professor Donatello Telesca, and Professor and Dean Ron Brookmeyer, and Crystal also arranged for the mentorship team to include Jennifer Manly, Ph.D., a Professor of Neuropsychology in Neurology at Columbia University, an internationally recognized Alzheimer's disease researcher with specialization in the role of diagnostic tests in understanding cognition.

In her leadership role of the Biostatistics Student Association, Crystal has graciously offered to make herself available to other students who might similarly be interested in applying for similar training fellowships. So along with congratulations, thanks to you, Crystal, for your efforts on our collective behalf!

Posted 8 January 2021

Sudipto Banerjee, Professor and Chair of the UCLA Department of Biostatistics, is now President-Elect of the International Society for Bayesian Analysis (ISBA)

As elaborated at, ISBA has emerged since its founding in 1992 as the leading professional society in the scientific community advancing Bayesian statistical methodologies, which have had a transforming impact on the field of biostatistics. ISBA has also been influential in bridging statistical science with other allied disciplines as data science has emerged as crucially important to academic and societal pursuits in the 21st century. Professor Banerjee can add this noteworthy reflection of his scientific leadership to his distinguished achievement of having been elected a Fellow of ISBA in 2018.

Posted 4 December 2020

Ron Brookmeyer appointed as Dean of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Biostatistics Professor Ronald Brookmeyer is appointed as dean of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, effective January 15, 2020.

Yan Wang, Biostatistics doctoral student is a recipient of The Global Alliance for Training in Health Equity Research Fellowship (GATHER)

Yan Wang, PhD student has been awarded the postdoctoral fellowship: The Global Alliance for Training in Health Equity Research Fellowship (GATHER). The program provides an immersive research experience designed to advance training and research on health disparities within and across global cities.

Christopher German, Biostatistics doctoral student is recipient of Burroughs Wellcome Fund Inter-school Training Program Fellowship

Christopher German, Biostatistics PhD doctoral student, has been selected as a 2019-2020 recipient of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Inter-school Training Program in Chronic Diseases (BWF-CHIP). BWF-CHIP provides training in laboratory and population sciences to integrate research along the entire continuum from molecules to populations. With a team of outstanding UCLA researchers and educators at the cutting edge of their research, the program harnesses major advances in biomedical, genetic, and population sciences and focuses on the integration of these approaches. By providing foundational training and research experience in basic, clinical, and population-based approaches, trainees are being prepared to integrate population-based quantitative sciences with laboratory-based biological sciences to effectively lead cross-disciplinary studies of the future.

Justin Williams, Ph.D. student won the Outstanding Oral Presentation Award

Doctoral student Justin Williams won the Outstanding Oral Presentation Award at WNAR Conference held on June 2019 in Portland, Oregon.

Emilie Campos selected as one of the winners of the Student Poster Award at the 2019 Statistical Methods in Imaging Conference

Master student in the Department of Biostatistics Emilie Campos, was selected as one of the four winners of the Student Poster Award at the 2019 Statistical Methods in Imaging Conference at the University of California, Irvine. Her poster presentation was on a novel approach to event-related potential (ERP) analysis using a combination of principal component analysis and independent component analysis.