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New Emory Institute Harnesses the Power of AI to Improve Health Equity and Patient Outcomes

Emory University is embarking on a new initiative that will unite the power of machine learning and big data to transform the ways in which health care systems prevent, diagnose, treat and cure diseases on a global scale.

Launching this month under the umbrella of Emory’s AI.Humanity initiative, the Emory Empathetic AI for Health Institute will utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and computing power to discern patterns in vast amounts of data and make predictions that improve patient health outcomes in diseases such as lung, prostate and breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more. While AI is already being deployed to improve diagnoses and treatment for numerous health conditions, the resounding impact AI can have on health care is just beginning.

As Georgia’s first institute of its kind, Emory AI.Health will foster the development of accessible, cost-effective and equitable AI tools by developing an ecosystem of multidisciplinary experts from Emory, the Atlanta VA Medical Center, the Georgia Institute of Technology and others, and seeking public-private partnerships to propel new research forward. It will then serve as an engine to deploy those tools to the patient’s bedside, initially within Emory Healthcare and ultimately across the globe.

“AI will transform society and at Emory, we want to use these powerful technologies to save and improve lives,” says Emory President Gregory L. Fenves. “We see the power AI has to facilitate healing while improving equitable access to health care. Dr. Madabhushi is a trailblazer in health-focused AI and the ideal person to lead the Empathetic AI for Health Institute.” 

Emory AI.Health will be led by Anant Madabhushi, PhD, a Robert W. Woodruff professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory and Georgia Institute of Technology, a member of the Cancer Immunology research program at Winship Cancer Institute and a research career scientist with the Atlanta VA Medical Center.

“It’s an honor and a thrill to be leading the Emory Empathetic AI for Health Institute,” says Madabhushi, who joined Emory in 2022 as one of the first faculty members recruited through the AI.Humanity initiative. “With the power of AI and precision medicine, we’re stepping into a future where health care is not just reactive, but proactive for everyone, irrespective of their background, to ensure everyone gets the best chance at a healthy life.”

Emory AI.Health will also draw on the expertise of Emory researchers such as Gari Clifford and Judy Gichoya who are advancing AI across diverse patient groups. In addition, the institute will benefit from a major university-wide hiring effort through AI.Humanity, which is recruiting up to 60 new faculty who focus on AI in disciplines including health, law, business, ethics and other fields.

“Emory AI.Health brings together a dream team of researchers and clinicians who are deploying AI innovations to improve care not only for individuals, but entire populations,” says Ravi V. Bellamkonda, Emory University’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “By combining state-of-the-art approaches to precisely treat each person’s unique disease with a broad focus on enhanced efficacy, affordability and access, AI.Health will advance Emory’s mission of serving humanity both in Georgia and worldwide. This institute embodies our commitment to providing high quality health care, conducting research that finds new cures, and being at the leading edge of deploying powerful tools like artificial intelligence in the service of that mission.”

Making health care more equitable with AI-driven precision medicine

Emory AI.Health’s mission is to innovate, deploy and scale AI technologies for impacting patient health and wellness. A core pillar of the institute is promoting health equity by reducing the cost of care and increasing both the quality of and access to care for all populations, with an initial focus on the Atlanta region’s underserved population.

Recent studies show that personalized, precision medicine is superior to the conventional one-size-fits-all approach to health care. Given precision medicine’s ability to personally tailor diagnoses and treatments, it would seem that the discipline would inherently promote health equity; but a lack of diversity in clinical trials can exacerbate existing health disparities by creating an algorithmic bias toward majority populations. Thus, improving health equity will be at the forefront of Emory AI.Health.

“There is a critical need to develop dedicated AI-based risk-prediction models for minority patients,” says Madabhushi. “The reduction in cost resulting from AI-informed precision medicine, as well as the elimination of the need for invasive biopsies, are even greater boons to underserved and under-resourced populations locally in Atlanta, nationally and globally.”

Why Atlanta could become the focal point of the AI revolution

Atlanta is uniquely positioned to serve as the epicenter of AI in health care. Emory AI.Health will benefit from Emory’s network of world-class researchers, clinicians and ethicists, Georgia Tech’s technical expertise in computer science and machine learning, and access to data from Emory Healthcare, the most comprehensive health care system in Georgia.

Through collaboration with Emory AI.Health, researchers and clinicians from local, national and global communities can enhance programs, leading to profound impacts in fields such as brain health, oncology, cardiology, diabetes, global health, immunology, pediatrics, women’s health and veteran’s health.