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First combined MD/artificial intelligence degree program launched

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Program aims to train doctors to apply artificial intelligence to improve diagnostic and treatment outcomes

Combined MD/AI degree program launched: ©Phonlamai Photo - stock.adobe.com

Combined MD/AI degree program launched: ©Phonlamai Photo - stock.adobe.com

With the rapid proliferation of artificial intelligence in everything, medical students will now have the opportunity to earn a degree that combines both health care and technology expertise.

The University of Texas at San Antonio announced it is launching the first program in the United States that combines medicine and artificial intelligence. Students who complete the five-year program will have an MD degree plus a Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence. The program is aimed at applying the practical use of artificial intelligence to improve diagnostic and treatment outcomes.

“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 B. Milliken, in a statement. “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.”

The university already has several research programs underway to improve health care diagnostics and treatment with the help of AI, which is already providing customized patient treatment plans, robotic surgeries, and drug dosage assistance in medicine. AI is predicted to improve the patient experience by reducing wait times and improving hospital efficiency by analyzing data to predict patient care. It is also improving scheduling and appointment check-ins, and assisting with reminder calls for follow-ups and analyzing data in 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 Rodriguez, 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, in a statement. “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.”

According to the university, the program is a multidisciplinary degree program with three tracks: data analytics, computer science, and intelligent and autonomous systems. The latter is a concentration that trains students with theory and applications. In the AI program, students will have an opportunity to work with emerging technology in the areas of computer science, mathematics, statistics, and electrical and computer engineering. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to conduct research alongside nationally recognized professors.

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.

“I believe the future of health care will require a physician to navigate the technical and clinical sides of medicine,” Aaron Fanous, a fourth-year medical student, said in a statement. "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.”

Eri Osta, is also a fourth-year medical student in the program. Osta said in a statement: “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.”

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.

Students must first be admitted to The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Long School of Medicine and satisfactorily complete one year of medical school before applying for dual enrollment at UTSA.

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