AI in healthcare: A story of overcoming adversity
Sometimes bad news comes to our lives in different forms, maybe a bad financial situation, a breakup, sickness... but what 2020 and 2021 have shown us is that mankind can thrive through the worst situations and today’s story is one of those, where a person thrives to adversity, taking ownership of their own situation and in the process helping millions of humans.
Regina Barzilay is the Delta Electronics Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and a member of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Throughout her early career she conducted research ranging from explainable machine learning to deciphering dead languages until the bad news arrived, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014.
Facing mortality made Regina reconsider her career and the significance of her work, looking at the work done by her and different groups and taking into account the suffering she and other people with cancer suffered she started to question why she was working on trivialities when she has the capacity to make a difference.
“You start looking at this, what do you perceive as important in different points of time and how it fades over time? And since we have limited time on earth is really important to prioritize” Regian Barzilay
This led her to the conclusion that as a computer scientist you can grasp responsibility on these bigger issues in healthcare, which is not a job only for physicians, chemists, or biologists. Since then, she has created algorithms for early breast cancer diagnosis and risk assessment, making these tools developed by her available for underprivileged populations, developed machine learning models for drug discovery, and helped discover a new antibiotic called Halicin that is able to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
In 2020 she has announced the winner of the Squirrel AI Award for Artificial Intelligence for the Benefit of Humanity, an award given to individuals whose work has had a transformative impact on society.
So this is the story of overcoming adversity and how an idea and a person with enough devotion to it can change the landscape of the world, especially with the help of exponential technologies such as AI we can create a great impact in the world.