Russian-born Alexey Goncharov worked as a physician, operating a heart-lung machine during surgeries in a cardiothoracic hospital in Novosibirsk, Siberia. Between 2001 and 2004, he worked in cardiovascular medicine at a Beijing hospital. He imagined he would stay in the public health field forever. Little did he know that a scholarship from the U.S. government, awarded to him in 2004, would change his future.
"I came to the State University of New York at Albany to study Public Health. Out of many subfields, I chose Environmental Health because it related to the biological and medical activity I was involved in before," Goncharov says. "But one of the optional courses the university offered was Introduction to Base SAS Programming. When I took that course, I discovered the new and amazing world called SAS!"
Mike Zdeb taught the course at the time. As Goncharov tells it, the professor's advice was indispensable: "He planted and cultivated my passion for SAS."
Goncharov says he never took a formal course to prepare for the SAS® certification exam. Instead, he relied on Professor Zdeb's generosity in lending him SAS books for preparation - and on notes that he'd taken in the Base SAS class. "That helped me a lot."
Practical application of SAS also expanded his proficiency. A project undertaken in 2005 with David Carpenter, whom Goncharov calls "a brilliant environmentalist, scientist and person," stretched the student's SAS knowledge to its limits.
"Being interested in statistics, I began to analyze health data for David's projects," Goncharov explains. "This particular project related to the affect of polychlorinated biphenyls (environmental organic pollutants) on human biochemical parameters like lipids, glucose and sex hormones. It required me to study and apply detailed SAS procedures, which increased my SAS abilities enormously."
As the statistical difficulties involved in his projects increased, Goncharov began to master more and more complex aspects of SAS programming. Lately, he has focused on SAS Macro language - which he says is his favorite SAS tool for its speed and usability - and SQL. "In addition to that, I am sophisticating my graphical abilities in SAS."
Having learned much from his experiences, Goncharov can now help other students deepen their background in SAS. "Many of my friends and classmates ask me to explain one thing or another about programming. Some aspects of SAS are quite challenging and require detailed explanation to understand. But I readily help everybody who asks me about it."
Goncharov announces proudly that he has used SAS every day since 2005. But does he plan to use it for years to come? His answer is yes. He says the technology is vital to performing robust statistical analysis. It has helped him in every situation requiring analytics. "SAS gives full output for all our requests."
In fact, Goncharov likes SAS so much that he hopes to find a programming job. "I want to do what I like, what I know and what I hope to polish all through my life. Even if I thought about possible work in a lab before, now I changed my future perspective. I will direct all my energy to working with SAS."