Sun: 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award for Research


Shumei Sun is currently chair of the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She holds the endowed Chair W. Hans Carter Professorship and holds joint appointments in the Division of Epidemiology, Department of Family Medicine and Population Health .

Prior to her appointment at VCU in November 2007, Sun held the Brage Golden Distinguished Professorship of Research at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. She was elected to the Executive Leadership of Academic Medicine, Class of 1998. Sun has had 30 years of uninterrupted federal support in conducting multisite population studies, longitudinal studies, and multicenterclinical trials. She currently holds an NIH R01 grant as a PI from the NIA and receives support as a co-Investigator on NIH grants from NIDA, NINDS and NCAT. She serves on an IOM Committee on evaluating approaches to assessing prevalence and trends in obesity.

"Pitt Public Health influenced my career in my choice of impactful topics to study. Biostatistics is an integral part of public health. Biostatistics combines mathematics and health for health promotion and disease prevention. In my research, I bridge the gap between recent statistical advances and current practice and improve the statistical methods so as to reduce the limitations of their applications in the study of childhood origin for adult diseases."

Her discoveries on the origins of obesity and its consequences over a lifetime have attained international recognition and have stimulated new fields of research. She has a long history of establishing measurement and reporting standards for nationwide population-based studies and directing and managing large confidential data sets in a secure manner. These activities include the the Fels Longitudinal Study, the U.S. Army anthropometric surveys, the U.S. Army Natick Body Composition Study, the National Growth and Health Study, and FDA orphan drug trials. She has worked with both basic science investigators and clinical investigators on translational research, including:

  1. the development of the US NCHS/CDC growth charts for pediatric populations using innovative kernel regression methods
  2. the development of national standards for the timing of sexual maturation, using probit analysis
  3. the development of a working definition for the metabolic syndrome in children and adolescents, using random effects models

Sun served for eight years on the Epidemiology and Disease Control Study Section at the NIH, and has served on numerous special emphasis panels. She served as co-chair of a series of NIH meetings on standardizing measurement procedures for determining body composition in children and on the childhood origins of the metabolic syndrome later in life. She recently served on an advisory panel on environmental influences on children’s health and disease as part of the Visioning Process for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and as an advisor on the future directions of the Pediatric Growth and Nutrition Branch within the same Institute.

Sun served as co-director and mentor of the STREAM Program from 1997-2005, a program funded by the NHLBI to introduce minority undergraduates to careers in research. She also mentored minority medical students during summer research fellowships and predoctoral fellows under the auspices of the American Heart Association. She has also mentored many junior faculty and post-doctoral students and has co-authored 54 publications with her mentees. Sun has been a pioneer in studying sexual dimorphisms in body composition in children, adolescents, and adults. She has received long-term funding to study gender differences in the onset of puberty, predictive factors in rates of aging, and the onset of the metabolic syndrome.

"Like anyone in academia, I wear a lot of hats with my job between teaching, research, and administrative duties, but I still get excited about writing papers and publishing my research," says Sun. "I have always enjoyed the writing process and without hesitation that is my favorite part of the job. The only thing that is better is when I have a mentee that successfully publishes their work."


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