Could computers be the future of medicine?
- 19 July 2019
Will doctors be replaced by computers? A common question in a digital age where robots and smart technology is fast becoming the norm in our daily lives. Chang Ho Yoon (2006), is quick to reassure us that “thankfully we are far from this quasi-dystopian future”. He added, “Computers are now powerful enough to spot patterns in existing healthcare data about you and the rest of the population in ways that we couldn't see before.” To describe the potential benefits of computers in medicine, Chang Ho uses breast cancer screening as an example: “At the moment, a small but significant number of women have lumps removed unnecessarily. It may be possible to train a computer to identify which women don't need surgery.” This would be a phenomenal advancement in screening and one that Chang Ho is hoping to explore further at Harvard next year.
The former medical student has recently received a Fulbright Award to pursue a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Informatics at the leading US university. He is interested in learning more about ‘big data’ analysis, computational statistics, data visualisation, and machine learning. He said, “Riding on seismic computational advances, these various analytical 'tools' have gained traction over the last few years. With appropriate knowledge, I'm not alone in thinking that this formidable research armamentarium can unlock some hidden patterns and significance of data. Insights into pathological mechanisms and better prognostication are some of the juicy offerings of 'big data'. Additionally, large datasets are feeding the awe-inspiring yet spine-chilling revolution of machine learning (artificial intelligence), whereby probabilistic modelling is enabling computers to effectively 'think' like us in specific domains.”
Could computers be the future of medicine? Chang Ho believes that the recent advancements are promising. He said, “You might have seen the evidence that machines can be trained to accurately diagnose diabetic eye disease. Imagine the countless other areas of healthcare in which computers may assist or augment our current standards of care.” He is excited by the “new era of medical research” but acknowledges “it is riddled with considerable challenges”.
Commenting on receiving the Award – which aims to promote leadership, learning and empathy between nations through educational exchange – Chang Ho said, “I am ecstatic about the opportunity afforded to me by the Award. As a Fulbright Scholar, I will pursue my interest in using ‘big data’ and artificial intelligence algorithms to decipher and resolve focused healthcare problems.”
Penny Egan CBE, Executive Director, US-UK Fulbright Commission said: “This cohort of Fulbright grantees will have the opportunity to immerse themselves fully in another culture, work collaboratively and develop lasting transatlantic relationships. In so doing, they will build upon the work of the more than 23,000 alumni of the US-UK Fulbright Programme that have come before them, helping to move us closer towards Senator Fulbright’s vision of a peaceful, more prosperous world.”
Reflecting on his time at Caius, Chang Ho most enjoyed the “vibrant and infectious conversations, quips and crosstalk over dinner between discerning and enthusiastic peers from all walks of life”. He says, “My utterly brilliant friends and mentors from Caius are responsible for inspiring me to do better with every step. Without them, life would be infinitely less colourful.”
Image (left): Chang Ho Yoon
Thumbnail: Medical Equipment (Max Pixel)