At Harvard, adding AI to M.D.

Friday, April 5, 2019 - 13:50 in Mathematics & Economics

You’re a first-year medical student and Step 1 of three U.S. Medical Licensing Examinations (USMLE) looms. Study drills include everything from anatomy to physiology, aging to immunology. You pore over test prep books, boil down medical texts to memorizable flashcards, and scour an electronic library of an estimated 20,000 of cards assembled by other med students over more than five years, and analyze its annotated sample exam questions. The new year dawns and with it comes the posting of the USMLE scores. You’ve earned a 272. You breathe a sigh of relief. At the Department of Biomedical Informatics in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS, however, more studying is in order. Not by human students, but by a “proto-med student.” An algorithm. “We’ve been providing the algorithm with information that is increasingly complex, much like what a first-year medical student would face,” says Andrew Beam, a research associate in the department and leader of the team...

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