Lonni Schultz paving the way for health research

Lonni Schultz (’82), has always liked math. When the Ulen, MN native was a sophomore in high school, she was asked to be the scorekeeper for the high school boys basketball game. That was where she found her place, and says it was the start of her career as a statistician. She went on to keep stats for the basketball, football, baseball and volleyball teams. It blossomed from there.

She began her career at MSU Moorhead (at the time known as Moorhead State University) as a computer science major, which was gaining popularity across the country. She later added a second major in mathematics and worked as a math tutor all four years of college, which helped her keep all areas of math fresh in her mind. Her sophomore year, she took an entry statistics class and really enjoyed it. This led to another statistics class and strengthened her love for the field, with the help of Dr. Fike Zahroon. Her junior year, she was the only female on the university’s computer programming team. The team ended up taking third place in the Rapid City, SD meet, which showcased some of the best teams in the area.

Lonni says she has many positive thoughts and experiences from Moorhead State. The small class sizes were familiar to her, and really helped her academically. “You really did get to know the people in your classes and got to know the instructors better,” she says. “I just felt like people cared about you there.” Dorm life added to the college experienced for Lonni as she met good friends whom she still keeps in touch with.

After graduating from Moorhead State, Lonni went on to get her master’s degree in statistics from the University of Iowa in 1984. She completed an internship at the Mayo Clinic, then Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit opened a new Department of Biostatistics and Research Epidemiology and offered her a position. While working at HFH, she completed her PhD in biostatistics at the University of Michigan in 1994. Thirty-nine years later, Lonni remains at the hospital as a Senior Research Biostatistician, has served as the Biostatistics section head, and the department has grown to over 200 people. She has co-authored over 220 manuscripts in many different medical areas. She is a member of the Henry Ford Hospital Institutional Review Board (IRB) and was a previous member of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke study section.

“I’ve been able to work on many different projects and I feel like I’ve contributed to a lot of medical research,” she says. Two of the projects she is most proud of include the research she did researching a possible biological link between migraines and depression, and a collaboration that found patients have better improvement and fewer complications if they get up and move around in the first eight hours after having spinal surgery. “I feel good about that one and the impact it’s had on patients’ lives,” she says.

Lonni married Richard McLain in 1989, a fellow statistician. “We have a lot of interesting conversations at dinner,” she jokes.

They made their home in Michigan and the couple went on to have daughters Mary (31) and Emily (28). They enjoy traveling, with their favorite places being San Francisco, Santa Fe, Tennessee, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and of course, Minnesota lakes country.

Lonni Schultz Mathematics Alum

In her community of Livonia, Lonni has been and continues to be involved with the school district and church for over 20 years. Within the Livonia Public School District, she was the first president of the PTA for her daughter’s special needs pre-school. She has volunteered in her children’s classrooms during elementary school and helped plan family activity nights. At Rosedale Gardens Presbyterian Church, she has served as both an elder and deacon. While an elder, Lonni was the chair of the Church and Society Committee which leads outside mission work and moderator of the Deacons which organizes food deliveries to families in need.

Beyond her work career and community involvement, Lonni says her family has been an integral part of what she does and who she is as a person. She claims to have learned the most about having heart and humility from them, especially from her youngest daughter, who has Down syndrome.

“She has taught us all to look at the world differently and to enjoy the small things,” Schultz says.

MSUM’s core values of grit, humility and heart are the same as those her parents instilled in her growing up.

“They showed me the importance of working hard and trying your best,” she says. “I have always had a never-quit mentality when it comes to setting goals and working to achieve them.”

“I am very honored to receive this award,” Lonni says of being selected one of this year’s Distinguished Alumni.

“MSUM has selected a number of successful CEOs, CFOs, and other successful business people, so I really enjoy seeing a person like me being chosen. We can all contribute in our own ways.”

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