Could artificial intelligence speed the way to better vaccines, ramp up surgical skills and reduce the severity of heart attacks? Absolutely. But there are fears it could also worsen health inequities, erode patient trust in the health care system and harm the medical world in ways not yet imagined.
Amid speculation, excitement and concern, the new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine explores ways AI is being applied to health care, biomedical research and education at Stanford Medicine — the place where AI for biomedical purposes was pioneered in the 1960s and an initiative was launched this summer to address ethical and safety issues relating to AI in medicine.
“As we embrace this future, we must do so with our eyes wide open,” writes Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine.
“We already have plenty of examples of how AI has fallen short in biomedical research — typically because of biased or otherwise faulty data — and there will no doubt be further unforeseen consequences,” added Minor, who is also vice president for medical affairs at Stanford University. “As with any powerful new tool, we must not only develop the knowledge and skills to employ it effectively but also invest in shaping rules to guide its safe and responsible use.”
The AI report includes:
- A roundup of ways AI is being put to use — including an app to improve patients’ photos of their skin for dermatology telehealth visits, an algorithm enabling more accurate heart assessments for children, and other force multipliers and innovations for health care and research.
- An article about the quest of bioengineer Kwabena Boahen, PhD, to build computers that function like the brain, which could be the solution to the expense and environmental impact of AI’s high demand for computing power.
- An essay by Jonathan H. Chen, MD, PhD, a physician who’s also a computer scientist, about his failed attempt to break ChatGPT and his realization that the chatbot enables him to practice high-stakes patient conversations through low-stakes interactions with the computer program.
- A look at a program of exercises designed by bioethicist Mildred Cho, PhD, to encourage ethical responsibility among programmers developing health care AI.
- A Q&A with the leaders of Stanford’s initiative for responsible health AI, or RAISE-Health, on what they forecast for AI’s future, what developments are inspiring optimism and which issues should be getting more attention.
- A conversation with four leading neuroscientists about what makes the human brain special relative to AI. They wonder, along with the rest of us: Will AI surpass and maybe even supplant us? Will it wind up becoming sentient?
- A report on an effort to stop breast cancer through early gene testing and AI being led by Christina Curtis, PhD, Stanford Medicine’s director of artificial intelligence and cancer genomics as well as the RZ Cao Professor.
- An article about how AI is enabling pathologists to better analyze tissue samples from cancer biopsies.
Beyond the section on AI, the issue features:
- A story about the devastating toll of cancer on Portola Valley, California, resident Aruna Gambhir and her family — and the hope stemming from research using cells grown from her son’s brain tumor by Michelle Monje, MD, PhD, the Milan Gambhir Professor in Pediatric Neuro-Oncology.
- An essay by Chinese American neurosurgery resident Adela Wu, MD, describing how cultural values concerning food influenced decisions about her dying father’s care in the hospital.
- An article about “clinical trials in a dish” — a technique being pursued by Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and the Simon H. Stertzer, MD, Professor, that uses heart and blood vessel cells grown from individuals’ skin cells to reduce the need for large-scale, expensive and time-consuming experiments on humans and laboratory animals for drug development.