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$100 million awarded to UNT's Health Science Center to diversify field of AI


The money from the National Institutes of Health means the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth will lead the coordinating center for the AIM-AHEAD program over the next two years.

The Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Consortium to Advance Health Equity and Researcher Diversity (AIM-AHEAD program) was created to combat harmful biases in how artificial intelligence and machine learning is used.

KERA's Justin Martin talked with UNTHSC's Dr. Jamboor Vishwanatha, about what this means for North Texas.

Interview Highlights:

On the AIM-AHEAD program:

AIM-AHEAD is a consortium to promote artificial intelligence and machine learning to achieve health equity and also diversify the research workforce that is involved in the AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) work. So it basically attacks two different issues.

One is the lack of diversity in the data that is currently used in the AI/ML field. And secondly, who is actually doing the work.

So this is actually a very, very significant program, and I think you mentioned about $100 million. It is one large investment that NIH has made in terms of diversity efforts.

On how artificial intelligence and machine learning affects health care:

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are in every walk of life. Basically, when you wear a smartwatch, you're pretty much collecting data. And then there are a lot of decisions that are made.

Artificial intelligence is used in the hospitals, in the clinics. It is being used in all walks of life. What is going to happen is some of the clinical decisions will all be based on machine learning, on artificial intelligence.

So it is quite important at this point for us to make sure that people are not left behind, that their data is used in developing the algorithms in making sure that any outcome is representative of all the population.

On how AI/ML lacks diversity:

There are two issues. One is the gender. It turns out that most of the people who are working in this area are predominantly male. I mean, so you don't really have gender equity.

Secondly, racial ethnic groups are not highly represented in the workforce that is currently doing artificial intelligence machine learning. And therefore, this is really critical that we involve all of the groups, all of the racial ethnic groups in the future workforce.

Dr. Jamboor Vishwanatha is regents professor and vice president of diversity and international programs at the University of North Texas Science Center in Fort Worth.

Interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.

Got a tip? Email Justin Martin at You can follow Justin on Twitter @MisterJMart.

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Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.