HOUSTON (November 09, 2022)

Toi Harris, MDMemorial Hermann Health System proudly announces it is joining forces with the University of Houston to improve diversity among artificial intelligence/machine learning researchers and level the playing field for everyone when it comes to machine learning.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the AIM-AHEAD (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Consortium to Advance Health Equity and Researcher Diversity) program, which launched in 2021 funded by a $50 million grant from the NIH, was created to close the gaps in the AI/ML field which currently lacks diversity in its researchers and in data, including electronic health records (EHRs). These gaps pose a risk of creating and continuing harmful biases in how AI/ML is used, how algorithms are developed and trained, and how findings are interpreted. Critically, these gaps can lead to continued health disparities and inequities for underrepresented communities.

Toi Harris, M.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Memorial Hermann, will lead a pilot study with the University of Houston that will look at developing AI technology approaches to help improve, among other things, the use of EHRs that will enhance the patient experience and give patients the tools they need to better manage their health.

“As we continue to advance our efforts to improve the health of our communities, I am delighted to have the opportunity to work collaboratively with researchers at the University of Houston who are national leaders in the AIM-AHEAD project,” Dr. Harris said.  “I will serve as our health system’s lead, working closely with colleagues from our digital team, our Informational Systems Division (ISD), our Community Benefit Corporation, our quality department, and our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council. Together, we will participate in the national consortium with the aim to leverage best practices in artificial intelligence and machine learning to reduce health disparities.”

The University of Houston serves as the South-Central Hub for the AIM-AHEAD project. Other universities comprising the consortium’s leadership core include the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth; University of Colorado-Anschutz Medical Center in Aurora; University of California, Los Angeles; Meharry Medical College in Nashville; Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta; Johns Hopkins University; and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  

“The South-Central Hub of AIM-AHEAD at the University of Houston is pleased to support the pilot study led by Dr. Toi Harris,” said Bettina Beech, chief population health officer at the University of Houston and AIM-AHEAD multiple principal investigator of the leadership core. “Adopting artificial intelligence technology and machine learning approaches will enable the efficient use of EHR data to enhance patient engagement and self-management of chronic diseases. We look forward to the findings from this study and how they will impact patient care.”   

Artificial intelligence simulates human intelligence and biases are brought into the process because it is programmed by humans. The goal of the AIM-AHEAD program is to increase diversity among AI researchers so they can contribute expertise, data, diverse recruitment strategies, and cutting-edge science to end biases that cause health disparities and inequities.