Anant Madabhushi was ready for the next step in his career as a researcher and educator. He was already widely recognized as a pioneer in the emerging field of machine learning—specifically for medical imaging and computer-assisted diagnoses. He had authored more than 450 peer-reviewed publications and held over one hundred patents in AI, radiomics, computational pathology, and computer vision. He had even seen his name printed in major consumer publications such as Business Insider and Scientific American that spread the word about how algorithms he’s created have greatly improved the accuracy of diagnosing cancer.
But Madabhushi, a professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University, wanted more. He wanted to break out of the lab and share his specialized knowledge of AI with doctors and clinicians who could put it to use in health care systems and hospitals. “I felt it was critical that I translate these algorithms into the medical ecosystem,” says Madabhushi. “It was time to move and deploy this technology into the clinical workflow.”
About the time Madabhushi was feeling this pull, he was contacted by Ravi Bellamkonda, a longtime friend and colleague who had recently been named provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Emory. Bellamkonda told Madabhushi about a new initiative he was launching, called AI.Humanity, that would transform Emory into a cross-disciplinary community that takes the study of AI out of the research setting and puts it front and center in the fields of health, social justice, philosophy, business, law, literature, the arts, and every other aspect of our lives that this technology touches—which is to say practically everything.
“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about health disparities and addressing the issues of bias where we’ve discounted underrepresented and minority populations in the construction of these AI models.“
– Anant Madabhushi
Simply put, the goal is to position Emory as a thought leader in this increasingly omnipresent field and, as the name indicates, put the humanity in machine learning and AI. “Emory wants to work to understand and influence the interface between this explosion of data and data-driven decisions and how we think of ourselves as people, our society, our commerce, and our way of being,” says Bellamkonda. “Emory wants to make an investment and build that capacity.”
In practice, AI.Humanity is an investment in people—a hiring initiative that will add to Emory’s existing strengths by bringing in between sixty and seventy-five new faculty across multiple departments, embedding expertise in AI and machine learning throughout campus and creating a larger community for the sharing of ideas.
Madabhushi is one of the initiative’s first hires. In July, he will join the Emory School of Medicine, where he can leverage the university’s renowned resources in health sciences to employ his AI and bioengineering algorithms. At the same time, he will be able to tap the expertise of the Emory Center for Ethics, the School of Law, Goizueta Business School, the Department of Political Science, and other arts and sciences programs. Having access to both sides of campus will help him and other hires to address ethics, legality, commerce, social justice, and other issues that inevitably arise when this technology—trained on human data, employed by humans, and used on other humans—goes out into the world.
“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about health disparities and addressing the issues of bias where we’ve discounted underrepresented and minority populations in the construction of these AI models,” says Madabhushi. “Health care costs are out of control, and one reason is because we have a number of therapies that are really expensive—and a lot of them don’t work for all populations. Sixty percent of cancer patients are bankrupt. I’m coming at it from a technical standpoint. I’m excited to work with people who work on this from the financial, ethical, and legal perspectives.”