Marissa Clark

photo of Marissa Clark

  • BS in Mathematics and Statistics (2007); minor in Actuarial Science
  • MS in Mathematics (2009) and Statistics (2010)
  • advanced analytics senior analyst at Anthem Health Insurance in Richmond, VA
  • presented her research on impact of U.S. opioid epidemic on organ transplantation
  • attended every Miami home football game during its winning 2003 season

My Profession

"As an advanced analytics senior analyst on the innovation and growth strategy team at Anthem, our mission is to provide targeting solutions to programs that improve the overall health and well-being of our members. I partner with the business to understand the program and create a solution that addresses all of the end-to-end needs.

"I grew up in the small town of Stryker, Ohio (west of Toledo). During my junior and senior years of high school, I attended a community college as part of a postsecondary enrollment options program to earn college credit. As a result, I first came to Miami with just shy of 70 credit hours!

"I have always loved math. From a young age I participated in mental math competitions and won the state competition one year. My high school never offered statistics classes, so I never knew statistics was a 'thing,' let alone a college major. After taking statistics at Miami, I realized it was essentially a real-world application of math, in a sense, and it fascinated me to be able to analyze data and do some pretty cool stuff with it.

"Being the first person in my family to ever go to college, I leaned heavily on my Miami math and stats professors for advice. My semesters were jam-packed, and every elective I took was another statistics class — I was already a stats nerd, but I just hadn't realized it yet. Following my professors' advice, I applied for a graduate assistantship through Miami's then-Department of Mathematics and Statistics (now split into two), and was accepted.

"I entered Miami's graduate program in mathematics. During the end of my second year, one of my professors told me, 'You already have all the classes you need for a graduate stats degree,' and suggested that I come back and get my MS in statistics as well. I applied and got in, but I had a small problem — I didn't have any classes left to take, because I'd literally taken every class ever offered in the department! I did an independent study to fulfill the requirements.

"After graduating, I got my first job at UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) in Richmond, Virginia. UNOS is a private, non-profit organization that manages the nation's organ transplant system and national transplant waiting list, matching organ donors to those needing a life-saving transplant. During my interview, I'll never forget how I felt being surrounded by people so passionate about the life-saving work they were a part of. When they offered me the job, and I said yes before I even knew the salary! I loved the idea of working for a non-profit with such a great mission of working together to save lives.

"I stayed with UNOS a little over 6 years, working closely with nurses, doctors, surgeons, clinicians, researchers. I loved every part of it. Towards the end, I was heavily involved in research on the U.S. opioid epidemic. I was very fortunate to be invited to national transplant conferences and various other meetings to discuss with transplant professionals, medical doctors, and nurses about how the opioid epidemic was impacting organ donation and transplantation.

"There's an obvious stigma surrounding a potential organ donor that dies of, say, a heroin overdose. Most would assume their organs are unfit for transplant, because, well, they died with a drug needle in their arm, right? In reality, my research showed that the opposite tended to be true. Despite being addicts or abusing opioids, such donors tended to be younger, in reasonably good health, and void of the various kinds of comorbidities that would preclude their organs from being used in transplants. This was a significant finding of considerable interest to the community.

"In late 2017, Anthem offered me a fantastic job, one that I couldn't refuse. And I love this job too. I get to be innovative, do really cool statistical modeling, and still make a positive difference. For example, I've been working on building a model that predicts the likelihood that a pregnant mother will deliver a baby that requires a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) admission. By identifying these moms, we can assign nurses and case managers to them more efficiently, not only saving us money in the long run but ideally, more quickly identifying high-risk moms who need that extra care. Just like my work at UNOS, I'm able to have a direct, positive impact on individuals."

Best Miami Experiences

"I attended Miami as a freshman during the season when the Redhawks only lost one game, right before Ben Roethlisberger was drafted. I remember going to every single home football game — even when it was freezing outside and we were winning by 40 points, we always stayed until the end! Some of my fondest memories include the 2003-04 football season and watching our fantastic hockey players play their hearts out at the Goggin.

"Miami is such a beautiful campus with a nice, small-town feel. For me, it was close enough to home, but just far enough away. My father passed away during the first week of my junior year, and I lost my footing for a little bit after that. However, I consider myself very fortunate to have had such fantastic professors. A few of them took me under their wing, mentored me, and gave me 'life' advice when I needed it most. I really believe, if it weren't for them, I may not have even gone to grad school, and I surely wouldn't be where I am today.

"My career path has been an exciting one, full of opportunity — not only the opportunity to do really cool stuff, but the opportunity to make a positive difference in people's lives. I could have worked for a credit card company, building predictive models to find the 'sweet spot' of consumers that will likely default and capitalize on that, but I'd never be able to look myself in the mirror. I wanted to have a job that I could be proud of, where I wasn't just a cog in the wheel. Miami helped me achieve it."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"As a student, I never liked the Miami Plan, which forced me to take classes outside my field of study, such as art and history. However, as a grown-up in the real world, I look back and understand and appreciate the requirement. It's nice to be able to intelligently speak about more than one subject! The variety of courses I took at Miami helped me become a well-rounded person. I think all students should be exposed to new subjects, particularly outside of their comfort zone, and try to embrace it.

"We live in a world of Big Data, and there are so many career opportunities for graduates in fields like mathematics, statistics, and computer science. Data science is huge, and there's always going to be a demand for people who have an analytical mindset and can understand and use statistics and statistical programming — whether it's in the financial and banking sector, insurance, health care, really, anywhere. With a well-rounded, analytical skillset, you'll always have job security and opportunity, anywhere in the world."

Advice to Students

"I came back to Miami to talk to the current statistics graduate students and leave them with some words of wisdom, particularly regarding life after grad school. My biggest takeaway is to not stress yourself out about the A- or B+ grades. At the end of the day, as someone who has interviewed multiple applicants, that is not what employers are looking for. Obviously, you don't want to fail your classes, but employers want to know more about your abilities, what you can do, what types of projects you were involved in, what type of experience you have, and what you can bring to the table — not whether you maintained a 4.0 GPA.

"Be confident — graduates of any analytical field are smart! You should walk into a job interview with confidence (not to be mistaken with arrogance) and know that you have value to add. It really makes a difference in the decision to make an offer if you're interviewing somebody who's confident in their abilities versus someone who's not. Own it!

"Lastly, and most certainly not least, make sure to take time for yourself. Self-care is important and essential to preventing burn-out."

[September 2018]