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Arnold School of Public Health

I Am Public Health: Ruilie Cai

May 1, 2023 |Erin

Ruilie Cai envisioned a career in clinical medicine while growing up in Chengdu, China – a city famous for pandas and hot pots. Once enrolled at South Central University, however, Cai discovered his talent for math and logical thinking.

A class in medical statistics inspired him to pursue a master’s in medicine and health statistics – this time at Sichuan University – after completing his undergraduate degree in medical informatics. In addition to his coursework, Cai engaged in several consulting projects with the West China Research Center for Rural Health Development.

“I realized that statistical analysis could help with clinical practice, finding risk factors and suggesting health policy,” says Cai, whose master’s dissertation focused on the frequency of workplace violence against health care professionals. “I strongly believed that my findings would make a contribution to the reduction of violence in China and this enlightened me that more meaningful research is worth being done for our society.”

I realized that statistical analysis could help with clinical practice, finding risk factors and suggesting health policy.

-Ruilie Cai, Ph.D. in Biostatistics student
Ruilie Cai

With this new resolve to make a bigger impact, Cai began looking at doctoral programs. In 2021, he enrolled in the Arnold School’s Ph.D. in Biostatistics program, where he has explored his research interests in survival analysis, longitudinal analysis and machine learning. He is particularly interested in applying these methods to address real word problems using electronic health record data, survey data and other aggregate level data. He has explored the  mental health problem during COVID-19, HIV care management among people living with HIV (PLWH), and impact of COVID-19 on mental health and care management among PLWH.  

In the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Cai has found mentors in assistant professor Stella Self and professor Jiajia Zhang.

“Dr. Self gives me informative advice on my academic achievement and always listens to my concerns, giving me detailed suggestions for course registration based on both my interests and program requirements,” he says. “Dr. Zhang is a very responsible advisor, who discusses the progress of my dissertation work and makes a clear timeline of my graduation. I’ve learned a lot about data management and statistical methodology from her.”

After completing his degree, the badminton champion plans to begin his career as a biostatistician in private industry. He is interested in working at a pharmaceutical company to help with clinical trial design, statistical analysis and methodology research.

“My advice is not to use excessively complicated statistical models while losing the interpretation,” he advises students studying biostatistics. “Try to think about the impact of public health and interpret your results.”

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.