April 2014

Letter from the Editor

By Donald Armstead

Donald ArmsteadI would like to take a moment to introduce myself as the newest member of the CompAct team. My name is Donald Armstead. I joined the SOA Technology Section Council at the end of last year. A lifelong love of technology and programming began for me on a Commodore 64, learning to get the turtle to draw pictures with a single command in Logo. It continues today with taking online classes in Python and HTML5 and buying every wireless gadget under the sun.

I graduated from Ball State University in 2004 with a bachelor’s of Mathematics and Computer Science. My wife and I live in Indiana with our two-year-old son who keeps us very busy. I enjoy cycling and Ultimate Frisbee. We enjoy volunteering with the local animal shelter and you can usually find a foster dog running around our house.

Professionally, I have been a health care actuary for nearly six years doing trend analysis, modeling, and trend bender initiative valuation. Health care has particular challenges from a data perspective. The sheer volume of data and long-tailed completion triangles makes reacting to emerging technologies and practices difficult. There is also the ever-present issue of data quality: dates outside eligibility, missing member data on a paid claim, no provider info, etc. that keep life interesting.

I lead a team of four analysts who support reporting and analysis for outpatient and physician claims; we attempt to locate trend drivers and work with operational associates to pull the levers to mitigate. This is like finding a needle in a haystack. We leverage SAS as our main modeling and data-massaging tool.

I recently began sending out “Donald’s Tip of the Week” emails to my department to share some of the pro-tips I have accumulated by trial and error and Google searches over the years. The first was simple code to email yourself from SAS when your job is complete so you can maximize your efficiency in multi-tasking.

%macro email_me(addy, subject = "SAS finished.");
  %let body = "Your SAS code has finished running. Now get back to work.";   
  filename sendmail email to=&addy subject=&subject;                
  data _null_;             
	file sendmail;              
	put &body;         
%email_me("darmstead@example.com", "CompAct Intro Finished")

This is my second issue as co-editor and I would like to thank Sam Phillips and Paul Ramirez for making the transition and learning curve as simple as possible. I would be lost without their help. I would especially like to thank Rich Junker; he has established a good stable process and has many relationships with authors to make getting articles for future issues less of a scramble.

I have pulled a couple lessons learned from the articles I have read in this newsletter over the years into my everyday processes and am thrilled by the prospect of providing that valuable service to other actuaries around the nation and globe. I am charged by the prospect of keeping the profession on the cutting edge of computer science and the latest methods in applied mathematics.

I look forward to continuing the proud tradition of this newsletter and hope you enjoy the contributions. It is an honor to serve you.

Donald Armstead, ASA, MAAA, is an associate actuary for Humana. He can be contacted at darmstead1@humana.com.