March 29, 2023
Chirayath (Suchi) Madhavan Suchindran, PhD, fellow emeritus at the Carolina Population Center and professor emeritus in the Department of Biostatistics at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, passed away on Saturday, March 25, 2023.
Suchi was a mathematical demographer and served as the leading biostatistician in the statistical services core of the Carolina Population Research Center (CPC), where his primary research interest was in developing methodology for demographic analysis. He was also engaged in collaborative research with population researchers to identify state-of-the art methods for addressing substantive issues.
Suchi was a longtime co-investigator and the lead survey statistician on the complex design of Add Health. For almost 25 years, he advised the Add Health investigators and the thousands of Add Health data users on the appropriate analytic techniques needed to correct for design effects.
“Suchi was instrumental in the large impact that Add Health has had on the field,” said Kathie Mullan Harris, PhD, former director and principal investigator of Add Health and James Haar Distinguished Professor of Sociology. “He diligently taught us how to analyze the complex multilevel data from the very beginning of the study and throughout as more longitudinal waves added to that complexity. With gentle but unquestionable expertise, he generously gave his time to consult with both investigators and trainees alike.”
Suchi was also a lifelong collaborator of the late Dick Udry, the first Add Health director and the director of CPC for many years, and CPC faculty fellow Carolyn Halpern, PhD, professor and chair of the Gillings School’s Department of Maternal and Child Health.
“I was privileged to collaborate with both Dick and Suchi for more than 30 years,” said Halpern. “Suchi was a brilliant statistician. He was also an unfailingly kind and patient teacher. I have fond memories of his support as I – trained as a psychologist – worked to learn demographic techniques. He was a tremendous role model for mentors and teachers.”
A long and distinguished career helping students and colleagues
Suchi published extensively on the theory and applications of multi-state life tables. His research also focused on the incorporation of survey design in estimating complex statistical models. The published works include adjusting for unequal selection probability in multilevel models, analysis of interval censored complex survey data in the context of time to obesity (published in The Journal of the American Medical Association), female-male disparity in obesity prevalence (published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition), intergenerational profile of socioeconomic (dis)advantage and obesity during the transition to adulthood (published in Demography), and discordance in national estimates hypertension in young adults (published in Epidemiology). His recent publications also included a methodological paper on analysis of spatial temporal data and on statistical measures to determine the importance biomarkers in determining health outcomes.
“I had the privilege of having Suchi both as my professor and as a colleague for many years,” says Gustavo Angeles, PhD, CPC fellow and associate professor of maternal and child health at the Gillings School. “I learned from him all the time, from the classroom where he taught us the intricacies of demographic methods in a simple and elegant way to, years later, on the MEASURE Evaluation project where he was the person to go for complex survey analysis. He listened carefully and in a pleasant way explained the core of the problem and its solution. He had a deep understanding of statistics, and he was very generous and happy to share his knowledge and expertise with all of us. Suchi was a wonderful person to be with.”
As a biostatistician trained in statistical demography, Dr. Suchindran made significant contributions to the training of population researchers. He was the program director of an NIH-funded population training program (T32 –HD 07237) “Research Training in Population Statistics” from 1972 through 2008. Through his leadership, the program received continuous NICHD funding for 35 years for pre- and post-doctoral training in the Department of Biostatistics. He also served on nearly 30 dissertation committees and led efforts to improve training in statistical demography more broadly as well. He contributed a chapter on model life tables to the revised version of The Methods and Materials of Demography (Siegel and Swanson, editors), and his online lesson on multiple decrement life tables have been used by many training institutions in developing countries. He also mentored generations of graduate students and postdocs as well as provided statistical advice to legions of colleagues at many institutions.
He served as associate editor/co-editor of the journal, Mathematical Population Studies, from 1986–2005. In this capacity he processed and reviewed papers relating to formal demographic methods or statistical methods in demography. He also served as an associate editor of the journal, Survey Methodology, a journal of Statistics Canada, where he was responsible for papers dealing with survey methods in population studies. Earlier, in 1974–77, Dr. Suchindran served as deputy editor of Demography.
For his significant contributions to the field of demography, Dr. Suchindran was elected a fellow of the American Statistical Association in 1995.
He made a deep impact on friends, colleagues and collaborators at UNC.
Suchi and I maintained a wonderful friendship for many many years, both personally and professionally,” said Gary Koch, PhD, professor of biostatistics at UNC Gillings and director of the Biometric Consulting Laboratory. “We often collaborated with strategies for providing funding for the academic programs of many students.”