First Stacey Cofield wanted to be a research biostatistician in sports medicine. Then she met Al Best, a biostatistics professor at Virginia Commonwealth University during the first year of her doctorate program.

Fifteen years later, Cofield is an associate professor in UAB’s Department of Biostatistics and recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, which honors those who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in classroom instruction. She wouldn’t have wound up in academia, though, if it hadn’t been for Best.

While a doctoral student, Cofield worked as Best’s teaching assistant for three years and watched him consistently inspire and engage students. One mantra he frequently repeated was, “Stop. Think. Tell the story.” Cofield now has those words displayed in her office, and they influence how she teachers her students.

“Biostatistics uses data to answer research questions. Telling the story involves describing where your data came from, what’s in the data, what’s the question you set out to answer, what is the statistical value and, ultimately, what that means clinically, biologically and, eventually, to a person with that disease or condition,” Cofield explained.

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