Maricela Cruz

Assistant Investigator / Affiliate Assistant Professor
Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute / Department of Biostatistics University of Washington


Maricela grew up in El Monte, CA, a low-income suburb in Los Angeles County composed of first- and second-generation immigrants with few college graduates. As the only U.S. born person in her migrant family, Maricela felt a lot of pressure to do well in school but often didn’t know what ‘doing well’ entailed, apart from getting good grades. In high-school, Maricela participated in an Upward Bound program that motivated and prepared her to attend college; that was the first academic program, in a slew of many, that changed her life. Maricela received a full-ride scholarship to attend Pomona College where she obtained her B.A. in mathematics. Maricela had a very difficult time at Pomona College. Almost all her peers were ahead of her academically, especially in mathematics, and many of them refused to work with her. With the mentorship of a statistics professor, Maricela continued to take math classes and eventually decided to apply to graduate school in statistics. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. in statistics from the University of California Irvine. During her time there, she was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awardee and Eugene Cota-Robles fellow. Maricela started graduate school with the aim of becoming a professor at a teaching university. As she transitioned from classes to research, she realized that she enjoyed conducting research more than teaching but feared that she was not ‘good-enough’ for research. With the support and preparation of her dissertation advisor, as well as emotional support from her family and friends, Maricela was able to apply and obtain a research position. Now, Maricela is an Assistant Investigator in the Biostatistics Unit at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute and an Affiliate Assistant Professor in the University of Washington Department of Biostatistics.

Maricela’s research primarily focuses on developing novel statistical methods to assess and evaluate the impact of complex health interventions. Her work has expanded the existing class of statistical models available for analyzing the impact of an intervention for interrupted time series data. She has developed and evaluated interrupted time series models that estimate (rather than assume) the time lag of an intervention’s effect, allow for complex correlation structures, and are adequate for single- and multi-unit continuous or discrete interrupted time series data. She also has experience developing and estimating suicide risk prediction models for high dimensional data and examining risk prediction and performance of these models by racial and ethnic group categories. Currently, Maricela is developing statistical methodology to assess the impact of prediction models implemented in the clinical setting and of nursing processes with various implementation effect time lags across hospital units. Maricela has broader expertise in interrupted time series, time series, correlated data, change point detection methods, longitudinal data analysis, interventions research and prediction. In addition to her statistics methods work, Maricela has designed analyses that evaluate the impact of value-based drug formularies on patient and health plan spending. She has worked with care delivery experts and practitioners to design and conduct statistical analyses that assessed nursing care delivery processes across multiple hospitals and hospital units. Maricela has also led collaborative studies examining the relationship of moving-induced changes in the built environment with weight change, as well as studies examining group cohesion with alcohol use outcomes in a group therapy intervention for individuals with a first-time DUI. Maricela works alongside researchers in behavioral health, mental health, Alzheimer’s disease, and insurance design.

Maricela enjoys talking to higher-education students about her academic journey in any format (panels, presentations, informal discussions, etc.). She advises students to spend time and energy finding support systems like academic mentors, friends, family, therapists, activity groups, mathematically compatible peers, pets, plants, etc. She reminds students “Navigating institutions that have systematically excluded groups of people can be taxing, especially for people from one or more of these groups. Surround yourself with those who believe in you, give you the space to ask ‘silly’ questions, value your input, and/or understand your struggles. Do activities that will help you blow off steam. No one person or activity will meet all your support needs, so find the right group and balance for you.”

“Hispanic Heritage Month means visibility. It is a time in which the wonderful work of various Latinx and Hispanic people is highlighted, when it otherwise may have gone unrecognized.”