Turns out that AI is not only transforming biotech R&D and life science research, but it’s set to strengthen its already practical impact on the medical field through the creation of the first dual degree in medicine to be offered in the U.S.

Artificial intelligence in healthcare is used to describe the use of AI and machine-learning algorithms and software, to mimic human cognition in the analysis, presentation, and comprehension of complex medical and health care data, or “to exceed human capabilities by providing new ways to diagnose, treat, or prevent disease,” according to Wikipedia.

Specifically, AI is the ability of computer algorithms to approximate conclusions based solely on input data.

Now the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) and the University College at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) are launching the first known program in the U.S. to combine medicine and artificial intelligence. A Doctor of Medicine (MD) from UT Health San Antonio and a Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence (MSAI) from UTSA will form a five-year MD/MS program enabling physicians trained in San Antonio to advance the use of AI to improve diagnostic and treatment outcomes.

Groundbreaking innovation

“This unique partnership promises to offer groundbreaking innovation that will lead to new therapies and treatments to improve health and quality of life,” said UT System Chancellor James Milliken. “We’re justifiably proud of the pioneering work being done at UTSA and UT Health San Antonio to educate and equip future medical practitioners on how to best harness the opportunities and address the challenges that AI will present for the field of health care in the years to come.”

AI’s presence can already be found in a variety of areas of the medical field including customized patient treatment plans, robotic surgeries and drug dosage. Additionally, UT Health San Antonio and UTSA have several research programs underway to improve health care diagnostics and treatment with the help of AI.

The World Economic Forum predicts that AI could enhance the patient experience by reducing wait times and improving efficiency in hospital health systems and by aggregating information from multiple sources to predict patient care. AI is also improving administrative online scheduling and appointment check-ins, reminder calls for follow-ups and digitized medical records.

“Our goal is to prepare our students for the next generation of health care advances by providing comprehensive training in applied artificial intelligence,” said Ronald Rodrigues, MD, PhD, director of the MD/MS in AI program and professor of medical education at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. “Through a combined curriculum of medicine and AI, our graduates will be armed with innovative training as they become future leaders in research, education, academia, industry, and health care administration. They will be shaping the future of health care for all.”

The UTSA M.S. in Artificial Intelligence is a multidisciplinary degree program with three tracks: data analytics, computer science, and intelligent and autonomous systems. Students also will have the opportunity to conduct research alongside nationally recognized professors in MATRIX: The UTSA AI Consortium for Human Well-being, a research-intensive environment focused on developing forward-looking, sustainable and comprehensive AI solutions that benefit society.

doctor using AI in a diagnostic application
Doctors are using AI robots to improve diagnosis, care, and accuracy for their patients. [Ipopba/Getty Images]
In 2021, a pilot program was introduced to UT Health San Antonio medical students. Two students who applied for and were accepted into the MD/MS program for fall 2023 are projected to graduate in the spring of 2024. For these students, the combined degrees mean multiple possibilities in health care.

“I believe the future of health care will require a physician to navigate the technical and clinical sides of medicine,” says Aaron Fanous, a fourth-year medical student. “While in the program, the experience opened my mind to the many possibilities of bridging the two fields. I look forward to using my dual degree, so that I can contribute to finding solutions to tomorrow’s medical challenges.”

“The courses were designed with enough flexibility for us to pick projects from any industry, and medical students were particularly encouraged to undertake projects with direct health care applications,” added Eri Osta, also a fourth year medical student in the program. “My dual degree will help align a patient’s medical needs with technology’s potential. I am eager to play a role in shaping a more connected and efficient future for health care.”

Medical students who are accepted to the dual degree program will be required to take a leave of absence from their medical education to complete two semesters of AI coursework at UTSA. Students will complete a total of 30 credit hours: nine credit hours in core courses including an internship, 15 credit hours in their degree concentration (Data Analytics, Computer Science, or Intelligent & Autonomous Systems) and six credit hours devoted to a capstone project.

To learn more about the Long School of Medicine MD/MS in Artificial Intelligence (MSAI) Dual Degree Program at UT Health San Antonio, please contact Stephanie Gutierrez, manager of the Long School of Medicine dual degree program, at 210-567-0183 or visit lsom.uthscsa.edu/mdmsai.

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