Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: The Future is Here Today

If there’s a tech topic that dominates economic discussions today, that topic would be the way artificial intelligence (also known as AI, machine learning and neural networks) has reshaped how businesses have to do their business.

To inaugurate the Yeshiva University Technology Group, a new professional networking group, the Office of Alumni Affairs very appropriately choose AI as the topic for its premier meeting at Troutman Sanders on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, for a panel discussion on “Artificial Intelligence in Health Care.”

As Lawrence Askowitz ’87YC, co-chair of the Yeshiva University Wall Street Group and member of the Board of Overseers for Yeshiva College, said in his introductory remarks, the new group is a spin-off of the Wall Street Group, which had already held several events connected to the technology sector and felt it was time to establish a distinct group with a new committee from technology companies. “We had nearly one thousand people come to our long roster of events last year,” he noted with pride, “and they came, and continue to come, to YU because we are an institution committed to education at every stage in life. Our topics are fascinating, and the speakers are consistently fantastic.”

He also emphasized how these events have helped many YU students and alumni find mentorships, internships and jobs as well as advance their careers through engaging with the speakers and people in attendance. He encouraged those attending to stay connected to YU for a relationship that will be mutually beneficial to both sides.

To reinforce the importance of how a link to YU can be profitable in both capital and human resources, Dr. Paul Russo, University Vice Provost and Dean, the Katz School of Science and Health described multiple master’s degrees offered at the Katz School, including four cutting-edge graduate programs in Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, Cybersecurity, and Quantitative Finance.  “We have shifted our focus,” he said, “to science, technology, and engineering, and we support recent YU graduates with a 50% Pathways scholarship in most graduate programs and have always provided all YU alumni with a dean’s scholarship to recognize their contributions to the university.”

On the human capital side, Susan Bauer, executive director of the Career Center, announced YU-MVP, a mentoring volunteer program that seeks to bring students together with alumni as well as YU parents, families and friends. “Our goal,” said Bauer, “is to join together the Yeshiva community through mentorship and purposeful connections.”

Laizer Kornwasser ’92SB, President and COO of Carecentrix, ably moderated a panel of Dr. Inderpal Bhandari (global chief data officer at IBM), Dr. Christopher Filippi (vice president of biomedical imaging and translational science at Northwell Health) and Asher Polani (CEO of ContinUse Biometrics).

(l-r): Laizer Kornwasser, Inderpal Bhandari, Christopher Filippi, Asher Polani and Lawrence Askowitz

Kornwasser organized the discussion into three parts: the pearls, pitfalls and promises of AI.

For the pearls, the three panelists agreed that what AI brings to each of their enterprises is the ability to sift through enormous databases and synthesize the findings into useful diagnostic information. For Filippi’s research into treating brain cancers, “AI can help identify genetic proteins on the tumors and thus help better assess overall survival.”

Bhandari agreed, noting how Watson, IBM’s program of deep learning, can capture, for the study of oncology, “the field’s expertise and apply it” by incorporating all contemporary research studies into its calculations, something no physician has the time or energy to do.

For Polani, whose medical service relies upon contactless health monitoring, AI allows him to integrate reams of data about physical motions, facial expressions and vital signs into actionable insights for better health. “Without AI, a physician simply can’t do this; without AI, you will have many more bad predictions and false positives.”

As for the pitfalls, the three panelists had three different ideas. Bhandari worried about how AI can capture the intellectual capital of a company in a way that does not allow the company to make the interpretations it needs to function efficiently.

Polani was apprehensive about physicians losing essential skills; for instance, “a doctor’s skill in using a stethoscope properly and creatively may fall by the wayside if he or she relies too much on what the machine says.”

Filippi feared an “overconfidence in the algorithm” because of how biases about gender and race as well as a lack of sensitivity to the subtle distinctions each human being brings into a doctor’s office can be unwittingly baked into the coding done by human programmers.

For all its pitfalls, however, the panelists agreed that AI promises (and has already accomplished) revolutions in health care both small and large that will benefit everyone, such as lower costs of care through well-targeted interventions, improved health care services (Filippi pointed out how well AI can identify the role of genomics in cancers) and reducing the bureaucratic inefficiencies of paperwork (with the benefit, said Polani, that doctors can now look patients in the eye as they discuss their conditions).

Will AI replace doctors? No, said Bhandari. “AI can build a case,” he said, “but the eventual judgment has to be between a doctor and a patient, between two human beings. That will not change.”

Laizer Kornwasser (with microphone) addresses the audience at the inaugural meeting of the Technology Group

After the presentation and a Q&A session, the audience stayed for more conversation with the panelists and moderator. Jacob Weichholz, principal at Withum and a member of the Board of Overseers for Sy Syms School of Business, said that “Withum is deeply into applying AI to its core financial services, which is why I’m excited to see this effort from the Office of Alumni affairs to connect YU with this important technological advance.”

Moshe Bellows ’90YC, a financial adviser and a co-founder of MAC Ventures, an early stage technology fund which will give students from Sy Syms direct experience of managing venture capital, was enthusiastic about the event. “I live this world,” he said, “and really support the formation of this new networking group to bring YU up to speed on the immense changes being sparked by AI.”

Naomi Schulman, assistant vice president of health management consulting at Aon, came to the event because “I want to keep abreast of what’s happening in the industry and because it shows that YU is keeping up with, and getting ahead of, these important technological developments.”

Victor Schabes, director of business development at LabThruPut, was glad to have attended because “AI touches directly upon one of our core businesses, electronic healthcare records, so it’s good to be in a room full of people paying such close attention to such an important topic.”

For more information about this and other professional networks as well as upcoming events, go to www.yuprofessionalnetworking.com