May 03, 2023

Foundations of AI in Medicine: Introduction with Dr. Anthony Chang

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Anthony Chang, M.D., MBA, MPH, M.S.Anthony Chang, M.D., MBA, MPH, M.S.Anthony Chang, M.D., MBA, MPH, M.S., founder of Artificial Intelligence in Medicine (AIMed) and chief intelligence and innovation officer and medical director of the Heart Failure Program at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, has partnered with the Marnix E. Heersink Institute for Biomedical Innovation to instruct its new graduate certificate course, Foundations of AI in Medicine.

The institute’s AI in Medicine Graduate Certificate provides current and future health care leaders with important foundations in understanding and applying artificial intelligence (AI), as well as the safety, security, and ethics of using AI to improve the health and lives of patients. The Foundations of AI in Medicine course teaches students the fundamentals needed for implementing AI in clinical settings and offers an introduction to the tools and techniques used in AI.

Chang is a leader in his field, having founded three startup companies for AI in medicine: CardioGenomic Intelligence, AIMed, and Medical Intelligence 10. These companies focus on research, education, and consultation to bring awareness to the benefits AI can provide to researchers, physicians, and, ultimately, patients.

The Heersink communications team met with Dr. Chang to discuss the significance of AI and what students can expect from this new program at UAB.

How did you become interested in AI?

I'm a pediatric cardiologist and have always been interested in math. Originally, I wanted to use math in my career by being an architect. However, I heard a one-hour talk by a pediatric cardiologist that changed my life. I decided I was going to be a pediatric cardiologist.

Still, my other love was always math, so I had a couple of mentors that were not only brilliant pediatric heart surgeons or pediatric cardiologists but also were very much involved in mathematics.

One of my favorite mentors is Dr. Bill Norwood, who was a heart surgeon. While he is one of the best heart surgeons the world has ever seen, he gets my admiration as a complex mathematician, as well. He taught me early on to look for clues in nature's numbers.

About 12 years ago, when the human contestants on Jeopardy were defeated by IBM Watson, an AI computer, I decided to go back to school and learn the current era of data science and artificial intelligence. I downloaded an AI program application at Stanford in their medical school, and I have not looked back since.

What are the biggest opportunities for AI in health care?

It's a game changer for health care, but I think only 1-2% of clinicians see that right now because you don't know what you don't know. So, if you don't know the resources available that can change and transform medicine, you're not going to know until it starts happening.

It's already demonstrated great utility in interpreting medical images, but as the recent ChatGPT has shown, there are many other types of AI and all kinds of applications for AI and health care that we're only starting to appreciate more and more.

AI can offer help with imaging and other areas, such as decision support and helping with health care administration. I have great hopes that AI will change health care for the better, both clinically and operationally, to improve patient outcomes.

How did you get connected with UAB?

A good friend and colleague of mine thought Rubin Pillay and I would see things very similarly in terms of wanting to change medicine for the better and for the future. So, he connected us, and I think we understand each other's DNA to change health care by improving outcomes and improving experiences for the practitioners by using artificial intelligence, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Rubin is a great leader in forecasting what's necessary for future clinicians. Sandeep Bodduluri, my partner for teaching the class, was so humble and so helpful while launching this course. This course is very, very special to me in terms of having clinicians understand the aspects of artificial intelligence and how that can help with the day-to-day practice of medicine.

Visiting UAB was not only great in being able to visit the students, but also, I was very impressed with the facilities and with how committed UAB is to this program and to the courses. Visiting Alabama was also special to me because of my mentor, Dr. Bill, who was good friends with Dr. John Kirklin, who is well-known at UAB.

Why did you choose to teach the Foundations of AI in Medicine course, and what does it offer students?

UAB holds the philosophy of teaching today what clinics need to have tomorrow. I like the focus on innovation and what is new in health care to change health care, and I trust Rubin to enable those things to happen. I’m very proud of the first cohort of clinicians of different backgrounds and varying degrees who all share one thing in common: wanting to learn about AI and health care.

I just gave a talk this morning, and someone asked me if I was still practicing medicine. I said yes, because I think to have credibility with both the clinicians and the data scientists, you still need to practice. I have to do both clinical medicine and data science at a high level and will practice medicine for a long time.

The class has been so enjoyable to spend time with. It's a very diverse group and some of them are still in practice, so they can relate to what I'm trying to say in terms of how to best use artifice intelligence to improve your experience as a caretaker. I think they're very excited about the course in terms of what it has taught them in a very short time.

How are you using AI in your own practice?

One of the problems we have is an increase in central line-related infections. Our CEO said, “Dr. Chang, maybe you can explore strategies to solve that problem with artificial intelligence,” and I agreed.

Another problem is that we have a difficult time prioritizing which patients need to be seen sooner, and we'll be using natural language processing to figure out how to address this. With all the discussion about ChatGPT as an AI tool, we can use it as a resource to look at how we interact with families, how to answer questions, and how to improve our communication with our patients and families. Our families have a lot of questions, and it's very difficult for the clinic to get to every one of them. So, we're hoping to offload some of that burden onto something like ChatGPT, where we can expedite the communication to improve the quality of care and the service aspects of being a health system.

Learn more about this program. Applications are due by Aug. 1 for the Fall 2023 semester.