The Section - Origins and Purpose

History of the Founding of the Biostatistics Section of the Statistical Society of Canada - by Judy-Anne Chapman organizer of the Section, written June 18, 1996.

The Clinical Biostatistics Rounds began in Toronto in September 1988. After a couple of talks and enthusiastic social gatherings, there was some impetus to extend the newly found fellowship to a wider sphere. Four Toronto Biostatisticians, Keith O'Rourke, Gerrit DeBoer, John Paul Szalai, and Judy-Anne Chapman, discussed the next step, and it was decided that the Statistical Society of Canada (SSC) would be approached about the formation of a National group for Biostatisticians.

The only SSC member, Judy-Anne, phoned Peter Macdonald, the editor of the SSC Newsletter, Liaison, who had David Hamilton send a set of address labels for people who might have some interest in hearing about the prospect. A letter was sent which described the exciting developments in Toronto, asked if they would be interested in a National group, if they might like to meet in Ottawa at the SSC annual meeting in 1989, and whether they would like to receive the Toronto abstracts. I think this letter may also have been published in Liaison. Charles Patrick, the SSC Public Relations Officer, was the local organizer for the Ottawa meeting, and found us a time slot at the annual meeting. There was a breakfast meeting beginning at 7 a.m. on the first day which was attended by about 15 people.

From the beginning, the Biostatistics group was action oriented. We drew up a list of items for short and long term implementation. The top of the short term list was a request for two Biostatistics sessions (1 invited, 1 contributed) at the 1990 meeting. Chris Field was approached en route between the breakfast meeting and the first conference session; he immediately agreed, and assigned the job of chairing the sessions to the requesters. That night, after the delicious barbecue dinner at the Experimental Farm, Gail Butler lent her work computer for the purposes of formalizing the minutes from the breakfast meeting. The minutes were distributed to the Biostatisticians and several members of the Executive the next morning.

A long term item recorded in the minutes from the breakfast was a request for a Biostatistics short course at the 1991 meeting along with a full day's program of Biostatistics sessions, concurrent with the annual meeting. Within 24 hours, Chris Field approached David Andrews and Judy-Anne Chapman about hosting the 1991 meeting in Toronto with a major Biostatistics theme; the program was to be arranged by Vern Farewell and Steve Brown.

At the 1989 October SSC Board Meeting (during the SSC Presidency of Geoffrey Hole), a formal request for the first SSC Section, for Biostatistics, was approved in principle. The SSC By-laws Committee would make recommendations for changes that would be required to the constitution to accomodate this. Elections for the new Biostatistics Executive would take place with the 1990 SSC elections. A Biostatistics Organizing Committee would oversee the nominations for electing a Chair, Chair-elect, and Secretary. The members of this Organizing Committee represented the regional and disciplinary diversity of Canadian Biostatisticians: Paul-Marie Bernard, Rollin Brant, Gail Butler, Antonio Ciampi, Marjery Cruise, Vern Farewell, David Hamilton, Marty Puterman, Jeff Sloan, Stephen Walter, Barry Wiggs, Judy-Anne Chapman (Chair).

By the spring of 1990, we had a National email system looked after by Jeff Sloan, 3 Biostatistical sessions at the annual meeting, a Biostatistics Proceedings from the meeting, and a formal executive for the new Biostatistics Section. By 1991, we were well-established in a pattern that has persisted to this day with an annual workshop which precedes the SSC Annual Meeting, 5 or 6 invited Biostatistics sessions at the annual meeting, and a bilingual newsletter, Biostat News. New plans are now being made to enhance this program, and the future of Biostatistics in Canada looks bright.