April 08, 2024

AI in Medicine Graduate Certificate

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Artificial intelligence is rapidly transforming our society, including many aspects of academic medicine in administration, research, clinical care, and regulatory environments. To help students grow with these advancements, the Marnix E. Heersink Institute for Biomedical Innovation within the Heersink School of Medicine is offering an AI in Medicine Graduate Certificate.steven fairburnStevan Fairburn

Stevan Fairburn is a UAB MS2 student passionate about innovation and health care. He is enrolled in the AI in Medicine Graduate Certificate program and recently received an Innovate Fellow status from the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, allowing faculty, staff, students, and businesses to explore technology development and commercialization.

The Heersink communication team met with Fairburn to shed some light on the certificate program and its curriculum.

What was the course load like as a medical student? How did you balance both obligations?

Balancing the workload of medical school with the added challenge of pursuing an AI in Medicine Graduate Certificate required planning and time management but was very manageable. I aligned the bulk of my AI coursework with my preclinical years, capitalizing on the relatively flexible schedule of this period to accommodate additional studies. This approach allowed me to immerse myself in learning about AI and its applications in health care without compromising my medical school courses. There is never an easy point in medical school. However, the preclinical years are geared towards didactic learning, so adding a couple of classes into the mix each semester was very doable, especially because of how much I enjoyed the content.

Have you gotten a better understanding of and training for using AI in health care?

Absolutely! I started the program with a very limited technical background, and my understanding of what, when, and how to use AI in health care settings grew tremendously. Not only has my technical knowledge expanded, but my understanding of the impactful progress that AI is beginning to make in medicine has grown exponentially. I’ve also learned the importance of safe and ethical implementations of AI within health care and the necessary limitations it imposes. This program has been instrumental in preparing me for a future where AI plays a central role in enhancing patient care.

How did the courses prepare you for the changing landscape of modern medicine?

They emphasized the revolutionary potential of artificial intelligence. I pursued the courses because I was convinced that AI innovations would be at the forefront of transforming medical practice by facilitating a more personalized, preventative, and holistic approach, and I have not been disappointed. The courses laid a solid foundation in AI basics and equipped me with the skills to integrate AI tools thoughtfully into clinical practice. They fostered critical thinking in evaluating AI technologies in terms of safety, efficacy, and outcomes, ensuring readiness for future advancements in medical technology.

What kind of hands-on experience have you gained?

The hands-on experience I gained through the program was invaluable. It culminated in a longitudinal project unique to each student. My project bridged my interest in surgery with innovative AI applications in clinical medicine. Under the guidance of Dr. Sandeep Bodduluri, the Director of the AI in Medicine program, I am devising and implementing an AI model to enhance technical surgical skills among trainees. Essentially, it takes a video of a student suturing on a suture pad and analyzes it compared to a database of similar videos on which it was trained. It then provides a score for the student based on their proficiency as well as feedback for improvement. Since I’m still going through the program, it is still in the building process, but the goal is to create a meaningful tool that helps students master surgical skills. This project aligns with my career aspirations and offers a unique opportunity to advance surgical education through AI by demonstrating the practical impact of AI integration in health care. Through this process, I feel much better prepared to analyze and implement AI systems into clinical workflows.

What should potential students expect?

Future students can anticipate a wide-ranging educational experience encompassing engaging coursework, peer collaboration, and hands-on projects that mirror real-world challenges. The program is structured around virtual evening lectures that encourage active participation and leverage the interests and expertise of the student body. Everyone in the program is excited about the future of AI in medicine, so there are a lot of great discussions being started by something someone read or saw in the news earlier in the week. In terms of collaborations, there’s at least one class project that is group-oriented in HI 620. My group meets weekly via Zoom to work on it together. I also know two of my classmates are completing their longitudinal project together because they’re in the same department and share interests, which speaks to the flexibility and adaptability of the program.

What was your favorite part of the curriculum to study? Why?

Delving into the fundamentals of AI and exploring its capacity to innovate modern health care solutions was the highlight for me. We dove into what a neural network is and how they are built at a digestible level. I learned why AI models are viewed as black boxes and what the responsible use of these models looks like. It also emphasized the importance of data management and systems training within health care settings. It took AI, which carries so many connotations in today’s world, and explicitly broke it down into an understandable format of the technical details. The challenge of understanding and applying AI concepts pushed me to extend my limits, with the support of instructors who were instrumental in deepening my comprehension of AI's applications in medicine. This aspect of the curriculum not only stimulated my intellectual curiosity but reinforced my enthusiasm for harnessing AI to drive advancements in medical practice.

To learn more about the AI in Medicine program and how to enroll, contact Kelly Powell, the program manager, at kmpowell@uab.edu.