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Statistician Gordon Mourned

Tavia Gordon, 86, an analytical statistician who retired in 1977 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, died July 30 in his sleep.

He had entered the Public Health Service in 1951, serving as an analytical statistician with the Center for Disease Control and what was then the National Office of Vital Statistics. He joined the National Heart Institute in 1954. From 1960 to 1966, he served as assistant chief of a division within the National Center for Health Statistics, where he participated in the implementation of the first Health Examination Survey and initiated the analytical publication series for that unit.

At the time of his NIH retirement, Gordon was supervisory statistician for longitudinal epidemiology studies sponsored by NHLBI. These programs were modeled on the Framingham Heart Study, where he was instrumental in initiating the Framingham monograph series and other analytical reports. During his tenure at NHLBI, he authored or co-authored a variety of studies on cardiovascular epidemiology and statistical methodology which were instrumental in designing prevention programs in cardiovascular disease. He was also instrumental in the design of the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, which demonstrated the effectiveness of such intervention.

After leaving NIH, Gordon served as senior scientist for General Electric and as research professor of statistics at George Washington University, from which he retired in 1997.

"Tavia had been an integral part of our lives for well over 30 years as boss, mentor and friend," said Dr. Daniel McGee of Florida State University. "His role in methodological advancement in the fields of statistics and epidemiology and his role in advancing the careers of others was substantial...His 1971 paper on hazards in the use of the logistic function is still required reading in many courses that include mathematical modeling and was included in a collection of 'classics' of the epidemiological literature."

Added Dr. Paul Sorlie, supervisory statistician at NHLBI, "Tavia's impact as a mentor cannot be overstated. For many of us who arrived at NIH young and bewildered in the 1960's and 1970's, he provided the best example of a clear and critical thinker. He taught us the true meaning of non sequitur, and of the challenges in extracting the practical meaning from complex statistics."

Another colleague from the heart institute, statistician Thomas Thom, noted, "Scientific integrity was of paramount concern to Tavia. He lived it and he instilled it in those he supervised. Data had to be handled with care from collection to their support of conclusions drawn. His experience spanned the collection and analysis and publication of national and community study data. That and his personal skills made for an ideal boss."

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