For the Love of Teaching: Alum Thrives as a Mentor

Leslie McClure

Leslie McClure

PhD ‘04, Biostatistics; Chair of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department, Drexel University

As chair of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health, Leslie McClure has many roles to fill: administrator, researcher, teacher, and advisor. It's in the last two areas that Leslie finds the most fulfillment.

"The reason I'm in academics is because I love working with students and teaching," she says. 

What gets me out of bed in the morning is knowing that every day in different ways I'm helping other people do their jobs better.

Both in her previous job as a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and now at Drexel University, McClure teaches classes, advises on papers, and involves students in her own research on stroke, autism, and diabetes, and in clinical trials methods. She loves seeing the “ah-ha moments” when students finally make sense of difficult concepts.

"What gets me out of bed in the morning is knowing that every day in different ways I'm helping other people do their jobs better."

McClure is passionate about academia and the opportunities it presents for all kinds of people. "I think there are so many different types of academic positions that you can find what you're looking for just within academics," she says. This includes jobs that focus heavily on research, jobs that are primarily teaching, and everything in between.

As someone who loves to mentor and encourage students, she is particularly passionate about the teaching side of academia. "The idea that I don't like doing theoretical research means I can't go into academics is false," she says. Having only experienced a heavily research-focused atmosphere during her education, McClure says it took her awhile to understand that there were different avenues of success for different people, even within academics.

"It's okay to have a different measure of success," she says. "I'm not going to publish in the Journal of the American Statistical Association (JASA) and Biometrics, but I can still be successful as a biostatistician." As someone who has received awards both in teaching and mentoring, her words have certainly proven true.

When she is not in a classroom, McClure stays busy writing her blog "Statgirl", and she also enjoys running and doing yoga. These hobbies, and her home life, are part of what makes her life in academics so enjoyable.

"I love being an academic because I can leave at 3:00 p.m. to go home and spend time with my kids, get them to bed, and then work again when I have the time. So I have the flexibility to work when I want to work. I love that I have absolute control over my schedule."

McClure also participates in a variety of organizations and leadership programs dedicated to growth within biostatistics. Among these are the Executive Leadership in Medicine (ELAM), a group that focuses on enhancing the careers of women in the medical sciences, and the Math Alliance, which has the goal of increasing the number of underrepresented students in mathematical fields. Her involvement in these and other groups highlights yet again her satisfaction in helping others to succeed. "The things that I feel most passionate about are supporting the success of others, increasing diversity in our field, and helping women be successful in our field."