SPH artificial intelligence workforce event draws record attendance

HSC president, faculty and staff at AI eventMore than 200 guests, both in person and online, participated in the recent School of Public Health workforce event on “Artificial Intelligence, Health Equity and the Future of Public Health” at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth.

Artificial intelligence is expected to bring significant changes to the future of the public health profession, education and workforce, with far-reaching applications in health services management and delivery. The powerful tools of AI hold significant promise related to health equity issues — provided those tools are also used to unravel systemic inequities.

The event featured regionally and nationally regarded experts as part of HSC’s 2023 Health Care Workforce & Education series.

The event was opened by Dr. Sylvia Trent-Adams, HSC president, who noted, “AI offers incredible potential to improve many aspects of public health and health care, to accelerate scientific discovery, facilitate better decision making, improve guidance for patients and communities, and apply problem-solving techniques that improve and support human interpretation. From early detection and diagnosis of diseases to making it easier to analyze large amounts of data, AI and its applications are important to our future and the training and preparation of our students.”

Dr. Shafik Dharamsi, dean of the School of Public Health, served as moderator, hosting four recognized leaders in the discussion of AI’s current and potential impact for the future.

The panelists included:

  • JK Vishwanatha, Regents professor and vice president of the HSC Institute of Health Disparities. Dr. Vishwanatha is a special assistant to the provost for the HSC Center for Diversity and International Programs and was recently appointed to lead the $102 million-funded AIM-AHEAD coordinating center at HSC, named by executive order from U.S. President Joe Biden.

AIM-AHEAD is the “Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Consortium to Advance Health Equity and Researcher Diversity,” a National Institutes of Health-funded consortium to advance responsible AI innovation by a wide range of health care technology developers that promotes the welfare of patients and workers in the health care sector.

  • Sat Ramphal, founder and CEO of MAYA AI. Innovator and technology change agent Ramphal started his first company after leaving college at age 19. Ten years later, he is founder and CEO of his fourth company, a generative AI platform providing actionable insights from internal and external data in real time for health care and pharma industries. Ramphal and his team of innovators are building cutting-edge technology and setting the foundation for today’s new wave of AI and quantum computing.
  • Anushree Vichare, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity, Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. Dr. Vichare holds a Ph.D. in health care policy and research and is a primary care physician and epidemiologist. Her research investigates the role of state and federal policies affecting health care access, utilization and health outcomes among low-income populations, with a focus on cancer care for vulnerable populations. Several of her projects examine how the health and public health workforce’s composition, diversity and distribution impact health inequities in access to care.
  • Patrick Moonan, lead epidemiologist at the CDC’s Global Tuberculosis Branch. Dr. Moonan is an alumnus of the HSC School of Public Health (2005) and an accomplished public health practitioner with more than 20 years’ of experience in driving epidemiology and programmatic excellence and innovation in the areas of public health and preventive medicine. He has authored more than 150 peer-reviewed publications, policy statements and guidelines, and has extensive field-based outbreak investigation experience in numerous domestic and international settings, including Ebola, HIV, drug-resistant TB, SARS and SARS-CoV-2.

“The evening gave our guests an opportunity to hear from some of the brightest and best in their field,” said Dr. Dharamsi. “The power of artificial intelligence has tremendous potential if harnessed appropriately, and hearing from these experts provided important considerations on how our school can integrate AI into our curriculum as we prepare our students to lead the next generation of public health.

“The attendance and participation at this event demonstrated in a powerful way the interest that our faculty, students, alumni, professional community and other guests have in this topic and its applications,” he added.

During a networking reception before the panel presentation, SPH doctoral students shared poster presentations on their research projects and community engagement work. The presentations included:

  • Research conducted by Edna P. Mendoza on a multi-hazard susceptibility map of the Osh region of the Kyrgyz Republic, which is a useful planning tool for disaster preparedness.
  • Work examining geographic trends in opioid prescribing rates under Medicaid and Medicare, presented by Shanshan Wang.
  • A review by Sarah Alkhatib on the effect of Islamophobia on Muslim Americans’ mental health following 9/11.
  • An examination of the role of pregnancy intentions in contraception choice, conducted by Idara Akpan.
  • Daily-level research examining associations between drinking context and protective behaviors among adolescents and young adults, conducted by Allison Cross.

Dr. Dana Litt, director of the MS and Ph.D. programs in public health sciences, said the opportunity to share their research “allows students to not only showcase their innovative ideas but also contribute to the collective knowledge that can drive meaningful advancements in the field of public health.”

“We are so proud of our students and their cutting-edge work and are thrilled they had the opportunity to be part of this exciting event,” said Litt.

As students begin working with AI tools and explore the capabilities, Dr. Dharamsi noted, SPH faculty are already involved in AI and health equity-related research. One example is the recently published, peer-reviewed article, “Developing Ethics and Equity Principles, Terms and Engagement Tools to Advance Health Equity and Researcher Diversity in Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning: A Modified Delphi Approach” by Dr. Teresa Wagner, associate professor, health administration and policy, written with colleagues from other institutions around the country.

For those interested in viewing a recording of the event, please visit: https://livestream.com/unthsc/events/11024653

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