Inspiring inclusive innovation: Engaging the community on AI/ML with Pacific Island Stakeholders

Dr. Jamboor Vishwanatha
Dr. Jamboor Vishwanatha

The Institute for Health Disparities is leading the way in community engagement through a variety of projects and programs, including the Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Consortium to Advance Health Equity and Researcher Diversity, or AIM-AHEAD. Dr. Jamboor Vishwanatha is the program’s contact principal investigator and lead of the Coordinating Center at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth.

Vishwanatha and his team work closely with communities in the Pacific Islands to develop partnerships and collaborations with stakeholders who are interested in AI/ML, researcher diversity and health equity. The engagement effort is led by team member Allison Christian.

“Community engagement and empowering the communities in advancing health equity is at the heart of HSC and IHD initiatives,” Vishwanatha said. “We are happy to have extended our reach to communities in Hawaii and Pacific Islander communities through the AIM-AHEAD program to demonstrate our commitment to community engagement.”

HSC’s core values light the torch that guides the way for AIM-AHEAD and all of the initiatives across campus. The values of serving others first and working together to achieve shared goals are important visions for community engagement. The HSC 2021-2023 Roadmap outlined key focus areas, objectives, key results and measures/targets for the institution to strive toward.

One of those areas aims to “differentiate HSC as a whole health leader” through the development and implementation of a “comprehensive health disparities program for HSC and the community.”

To that end, the program’s leaders produced a virtual stakeholder symposium on Aug. 10. The event showcased AI/ML uses in health and included a listening session to better understand the needs of Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and Pacific Islander communities. The symposium was organized by the HSC central hub of AIM-AHEAD, in collaboration with Chaminade University of Honolulu. The event was promoted across the Pacific Islands and was featured in a tech blog, Hawaii Bulletin.

Participants were welcomed into the meeting with a traditional Hawaiian oli from the cultural engagement specialist at CUH, Kahoali’i Keahi. The opening keynote was given by Rylan Chong, assistant professor and director of the Data Science Program at CUH. Rylan discussed background on AI/ML, ML applications for health equity and ML biases.

Melissa McCradden, a bioethicist with the Department of Bioethics at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada offered a presentation focused on the implications of bias on patients/communities, moving from harm to justice in research and patient/community engagement in AI/ML. She also gave practical recommendations for partnerships to promote long-term success and trustworthiness of health systems utilizing AI.

Vishwanatha — the event’s final speaker — presented on AIM-AHEAD’s goals, priority areas, year-one engagement efforts with Pacific Island stakeholders and opportunities to collaborate in the future. He also discussed AIM-AHEAD Connect — a networking, mentoring and community-building platform with the purpose of connecting AIM-AHEAD Consortium members (trainees, fellows, experts, mentors, community members, researchers) interested in utilizing AI/ML to advance health equity.

A listening session was facilitated by Mata’uitafa Faiai of the Yale School of Public Health and Stanford’s School of Medicine’s Roxana Daneshjou. More information about the speakers and the facilitators’ biographies is in the symposium pamphlet.

There were 66 registrants through AIM-AHEAD Connect, and 58 unique users attended the event, excluding support staff. There was representation from academia, community and industry. Participants’ conversations during the listening session led to rich insights.

Some major themes that arose included the importance of controlling for bias when using AI/ML tools with native and indigenous communities, concerns about aggregating small Pacific Island datasets with large national datasets, steps to empowering communities in AI/ML and data science and moving from what can sometimes be unidirectional community engagement  to bidirectional community partnership.

AIM-AHEAD will be doing a deep dive into the information provided by the participants to provide tailored support to communities, institutions and organizations in the Pacific around this topic. A recording of the presentations are available to view. For more information about the event, please reach out to Allison Christian at

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