Kathy Freeman, Ph.D., entered college planning to become a doctor. It was the start of a journey that took a detour, and recently landed her at FAU. Freeman saw her future in medicine as an intellectually stimulating and humane pursuit, and knew that by becoming a doctor she would be following a long family tradition.
All plans changed for Freeman when in her senior year of college, after finding time spent in the lab unsatisfying, she came to the conclusion that she didn’t want to be a physician. As a mathematics major, now in search of a career, she sought the advice of her department chair. She was instructed to look through a large university course catalog until she found a subject that interested her. When she came across the field of epidemiology, she knew she had found her calling. As an epidemiologist, Freeman would be applying mathematics to search for the causes of diseases in defined populations, prevention strategies and treatment. For Freeman, epidemiology was a perfect fit for a math major with a strong sense of altruism.
After acing the graduate school exam, she received a training grant from the U.S. Public Health Service, in exchange for her commitment to work in biostatistics, an offshoot area of epidemiology that applies mathematics to analyze disease patterns. Freeman went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a doctorate from Columbia University, both degrees in biostatistics.
Freeman spent 25 years at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center, where she served as director of biostatistics and a professor in the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Department of Epidemiology and Population Health. Freeman has been the principal and co-investigator on many federally funded studies. Now, a part of the research faculty at FAU, Freeman recently started working at the Institute for Healthy Aging and Lifespan Studies. She plans to use her expertise to develop collaborations and write grants to advance the institute’s mission.
“Healthy aging sounds like a pat phrase, but if you can preserve quality of life for as long as possible, it means a lot,” she said. Thinking about her mother, who at age 96 continues to exercise, socialize and keep her mind active by playing bridge four-times-a-week, Freeman says,“It’s too easy to say it’s all about good genes. Lifestyle is a large component as well."