Stan Lemeshow’s public health legacy

The leading biostatistician and CPH’s founding dean plans to retire after 24 years at Ohio State

Kristen Mitchell
Stanley Lemeshow

During his 24 years at The Ohio State University, Stan Lemeshow forged a path as a prolific author, international leader in statistical modeling and a passionate teacher — never leaving the classroom, even during the decade he served as founding dean of the College of Public Health.

While his leadership was integral to the early growth of the college, becoming dean hadn’t been part of the plan. 

“Even when I was dean, I always thought of myself as a reluctant dean,” he said. “I feel happy that I was available to step up to the plate when we needed someone to lead the college. Realizing that my efforts were successful, and that the college is now doing so well is very rewarding.”

Lemeshow, who is leaving the university in June, oversaw CPH’s 2007 transition from a school within the College of Medicine to an independent college that could “stand on its own two feet,” he said. He also worked to unite the faculty, students and staff under one roof for the first time in 2011 when the college moved into a renovated Cunz Hall and to make the college the state’s first to be accredited through the Council on Education for Public Health, or CEPH. 

Lemeshow, who served as dean from 2003 to 2013, laid a strong foundation that put the college on a trajectory for success, Dean Amy Fairchild said.

“We were part of a wave of growth in public health. Stan saw and seized this moment in the history of our field, not only when there were almost no opportunities for undergraduates but also still relatively few opportunities for graduate education,” she said.

Lemeshow was awarded the designation of Distinguished University Professor this spring, the university's highest faculty honor. 

Passion for teaching 

Amy Ferketich, professor of epidemiology, said Lemeshow was “exactly what we needed” when CPH was growing from a school to a college, but, more than anything, his time at Ohio State is defined by his fervor for teaching. Ferketich was finishing her PhD when Lemeshow was hired to the university and took one of his classes long before they worked together as faculty.

“He has such a passion for teaching,” Ferketich said. “To still have that passion and that desire to walk into the classroom each day and engage with students, that’s going to be missed.”

Kellie Archer, chair and professor of biostatistics, described Lemeshow as a “great instructor, great colleague and great researcher” with enormous prominence in the field. Lemeshow’s research includes statistical modeling of medical data, sampling, health disparities and cancer prevention. He served as the first director of the university’s biostatistics program and later the Center for Biostatistics, a centralized resource for biostatistics expertise on campus. He also co-wrote multiple textbooks, including “Applied Logistic Regression,” the world’s most referenced book on epidemiology and biostatistics. He received a lifetime achievement award from Wiley, the book’s publisher, in 2003.

Lemeshow mentored Archer and served as her PhD dissertation adviser. What set him apart as a professor was his commitment to always providing the larger context to classroom concepts, she said.

Lemeshow’s teaching prowess extends beyond Ohio State. He maintains ongoing relationships with multiple European universities and has taught more than 100 short courses on biostatistical methods in the U.S. and abroad in several European countries, Australia, China and India.

Reflecting on his career, Lemeshow said he’s most proud when a former student shares something he taught them made them more a successful researcher.

“I get that kind of feedback from time to time, and it means a lot to me,” he said.  

Leading for the future 

Stan Lemeshow stands at a lectern in front of Cunz Hall.
Lemeshow stands in front of a renovated Cunz Hall in October 2011.

Eric Seiber, professor and director for the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Studies (HOPES), said Lemeshow’s leadership was pivotal during its transition from school to independent, accredited college. He shaped the college with early faculty hires and was focused on growing the college’s research reputation, Seiber said.

“You can’t appreciate our progress without knowing where we came from, and really how far we have come,” he said. “The college would not be where it is without Stan as a change agent.”

Former Columbus Health Commissioner Teresa Long, CPH’s special advisor of community engagement and partnership, served as an external advisor when Lemeshow was dean. She recalled how he always made efforts to “learn from and to try and appreciate the areas where an academic partner could be helpful” to public health initiatives in Columbus and around the state.

“Stan has become a clear part of the tapestry that makes this college so special,” she said. “I’m super happy for him on his retirement, but I’m sad to be losing a key partner and a leader for our college.”

Lemeshow said it’s satisfying to see how much the college has transformed. Over the last 15 years, CPH has grown into a network of “undisputable scholars doing amazing research,” he said.

Lemeshow said he hopes the next 15 years are marked by continued recruitment of outstanding faculty who can provide students with “the kind of learning experience they expect if they come to a place like Ohio State” and a culture of collaboration needed to tackle public health’s biggest challenges.

“Everyone should try to be the best they can be, but for me, I did my best when I was able to surround myself with talented people who could feed off each other’s strengths, knowledge and skills so that the sum of our efforts was much more than the simple sum of our individual parts,” he said.

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About The Ohio State University College of Public Health

The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond. The College's divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy. It is ranked 29th among all colleges and programs of public health in the nation, and first in Ohio, by U.S. News and World Report. Its specialty programs are also considered among the best in the country. The MHA program is ranked 8th, the biostatistics specialty is ranked 22nd, the epidemiology specialty is ranked 25th and the health policy and management specialty is ranked 17th.