Sep 19, 2023 - News

Nation's first degree combining medicine, AI comes to San Antonio

Illustration of a health plus made of binary code slowly fading.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The first known dual degree in the U.S. to combine medicine and artificial intelligence is available in San Antonio.

Driving the news: The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and UTSA are teaming up to offer a combined doctor of medicine and master of science in artificial intelligence to form a five-year program.

Why it matters: The degree could put San Antonio at the forefront of medicine's future, as AI has the potential to improve health outcomes.

  • AI can recommend treatment options by analyzing medical records, lab results and more, per the World Economic Forum.
  • It could also model new pandemics and ways to prevent them, and help develop and discover new drugs.

What they're saying: "This unique partnership promises to offer groundbreaking innovation that will lead to new therapies and treatments to improve health and quality of life," UT System chancellor James Milliken said in a statement.

Yes, but: While the health field is generating some of the most exciting artificial intelligence innovation, AI can also weaponize modern medicine against the same people it sets out to cure, Axios' Ryan Heath reports.

  • This summer, the World Health Organization warned about the risks of bias, misinformation and privacy breaches in the deployment of large language models in health care.
  • WHO officials worry that datasets that do not fully reflect the population can generate misleading or inaccurate information.

Details: The master's in artificial intelligence from UTSA has three tracks: data analytics, computer science and intelligent and autonomous systems. Students work with emerging technology and conduct AI research alongside professors.

  • Prospective dual degree students must first complete one year at the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. They can then apply for dual enrollment at UTSA.
  • Accepted medical students at UT Health will take a leave of absence to complete two semesters of AI coursework at UTSA.

Zoom out: Major technology companies are throwing their weight behind artificial intelligence in cancer care, Axios' Tina Reed reports.

  • Microsoft is teaming up to build one of the world's largest image-based AI models for digital pathology and oncology.

Zoom in: A pilot program accepted two students into the combined degree program this fall. They are expected to graduate next spring.

  • "My dual degree will help align a patient's medical needs with technology's potential," Eri Osta, a fourth-year medical student in the program, said in a statement. "I am eager to play a role in shaping a more connected and efficient future for health care."

The bottom line: "Through this innovative partnership, aspiring medical leaders will gain mastery in the emerging technologies that will shape the health care profession for generations to come," Ambika Mathur, dean of the UTSA Graduate School, said in a statement.


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