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Statistics Ph.D. candidate Maricela Cruz won the Latino Excellence Award for Information and Computer Sciences (ICS). Cruz received the award at the inaugural Latino Excellence and Achievement Dinner (LEAD) held on April 5, 2018. The event celebrated research excellence and achievements across all schools on the UCI campus and recognized key leaders, graduate students, faculty and staff who encourage success in the Latino community at UCI and in Orange County.

According to Dan Gillen, professor and chair of the Department of Statistics, Cruz “possesses the intelligence, drive, creativity and integrity to become a first-class researcher in the field of statistics.” Her work on statistical methods for assessing the effectiveness of complex healthcare interventions has far-reaching implications.

“Now more than ever,” says Cruz, “patients, providers, resources and contexts of care interact in dynamic ways to produce various measurable health outcomes that many times do not align with expectations.” She explains that this complex interdependency makes it difficult to determine the true impact of interventions designed to improve patient healthcare outcomes. The novel statistical methods she’s developing can help address this need as well as those in other fields. “The statistical methodology I’m developing is not constrained to healthcare,” she notes. “The techniques I propose are appropriate for assessing the impact of a change in the overarching umbrella of public policy.”

Gillen takes “great pride in mentoring such a brilliant, hardworking and good-hearted young scholar” who is “passionate about giving others a chance to succeed.” Cruz was grateful to receive the award, and she plans to become a researcher in an institution that focuses on public policy or a professor at a research institution. Either way, she aims to “keep in mind the interests and well-being of the communities we impact and will strive to assist them by listening to and engaging with them.”

— Shani Murray