Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Artificial Intelligence in Medicine

Gevick Safarians

Recently, I’ve become increasingly fascinated with the field of artificial intelligence and its potential for progress in the medical field. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of entering a national competition for the OZY Genius Award held by OZY Media. A select panel of judges, featuring executives and directors from Google, MSNBC, and other corporations viewed over a thousand videos of college-aged students pitching their project ideas. To this day I cannot believe this, but I was selected as one of ten finalists to receive a grant and mentorship opportunity from Dr. Toga at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California to make my idea a reality. My idea is related to the implementation of artificial intelligence and virtual reality to improve the physician-patient relationship and communication. I’m of the belief that patients should know as much about their own illnesses as the physicians do.

I drew upon my personal experience with my grandmother who always remained in the dark as to what was going on with her illness and why she was undergoing the treatment plan she was prescribed. Luckily, my mother was there to help her along the way with her nursing knowledge; however, even then, she still didn’t fully understand everything that was occurring. This was a difficult time for my family, because added onto the fact that my grandmother was becoming terminally ill was the uncertainty as to what was truly going on. My family would always ask me to do research on the various disorders she had in order to give them a better understanding. This was how my inner drive developed for the field of neuroscience. My major takeaway from this experience was that patient education is often lacking, so this is what I work to strengthen with my VR program, which will teach the patient about their own disease with 3D interaction and learning. Artificial intelligence will be built into the program to improve functionality and allow live research. With these technologies allowing patients to better learn and understand, the doctor and patient relationship can only grow for the better.

Now, more than ever, it is essential for medical students to become computer literate and knowledgeable in fields such as machine engineering, software programing, and the like. The field of computer science may seem daunting to many students, and even educators, since there is a steep learning curve for most. However, I’ve learned this can be overcome with time and effort. The internet now gives limitless opportunities to students to gain these skills; so much so that I consider it pure laziness and ignorance for myself not to pursue a “side-hustle” education in addition to the classes I’m taking. Through my experience, I’ve learned true education is self-achieved and having no structure set for me adds to the excitement of it all. I am only at the beginning and I have yet to realize my full potential, but to make my contest idea a reality, I’ve had to maneuver outside of my comfort zone by making important financial, personal, and business decisions. Waking up early in the morning to chase my goal has never been more exciting, as each and every day is a challenge to try to bring me closer to the target you’ve I’ve set for myself.

Soon enough, we’ll need to embrace this changing medical landscape. From robot-assisted surgeries to a complete takeover by robotic nursing or physician units, education in the field of technology remains vital for professionals in the healthcare system. The key, however, is to use it to benefit patients as much as healthcare professionals themselves. One of my favorite lines by Neil deGrasse Tyson is “it’s the facts plus sensitivity, when convolved together, makes impact.” This quote is best when taken out of context, in my opinion, because it stands for much more than Tyson scolding Dawkins for his insensitivity to  religion. The facts represent the data and conclusions held by the healthcare professionals and the sensitivity is the candor and compassion with which they present this information to patients. The way this presentation occurs can be bettered, and the key may be through the application of technology.


About Gevick Safarians

Gevick Safarians is from Burbank, California and attends the University of California, Los Angeles, from which he hopes to graduate in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience. You can reach him on Instagram (@sgevick) and LinkedIn.

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