One-on-one with an AI health pioneer

A candid interview with Dr. Muhammad Mamdani, VP of Data Science and Advanced Analytics.

Globally renowned AI health pioneer, Dr. Muhammad Mamdani, proves that, despite his unearthly abilities, he’s actually quite human. 

When he isn’t inventing AI health solutions that make access to health care faster and more equitable, health systems more efficient, hospitals safer, and treatments more precise, he’s dreaming about trips to Disney World and rocking out to his daughter’s favourite tunes. 

What’s on your playlist right now? 

Right now I’m listening to anything that annoys my teenage daughter. Apparently I’m not cool enough to listen to the likes of the Weeknd, Lil Nas X and Doja Cat, so that’s who’s on my playlist.

Star Wars or Star Trek? 

Star Trek – hands down. How can sticks that light up compare to a Vulcan nerve pinch?

Which Sci-Fi author would take the match on Fight Night, Ray Bradbury or William Gibson? 

The obvious answer is William Gibson. Long live cyberpunk!

When did you first know you wanted to be a data scientist?

I’ve always liked math and working with numbers. As a child I liked to count EVERYTHING, which annoyed everyone. Growing up, I was fascinated with how people make decisions. I then realized it’s all about data – our senses of smell, touch, taste, sight and hearing are all essentially means of data inputs into our brain, which processes this data to make sense of it to guide our actions. Computers can learn to process data as well – perhaps even more complex data and even faster than humans. So … here we are!

What’s the one device you can’t do without?

My smartphone – it’s become such an essential part of my life in terms of communication.

So how do you unplug?

I usually like to get in some activity whether it be a workout or a walk – anything to get away from a screen!

We’re living in a world that is more connected than ever before. What excites you most about the potential of hyper-connectivity when it comes to the Institute for AI in Health? 

Technology has enabled us to connect with practically anyone in the world in real time without having to go anywhere. A core initiative of the Institute for AI in Health is a Global Collaborative AI Program in Health. We’re building a data and AI environment here that will attract top talent from around the world to work with us to solve our most pressing problems and help patients here and internationally.  We’re bringing the world’s best talent to us.

What AI project are you most excited about for 2022? 

We’re working on a few projects that focus on vulnerable populations. We’ve developed algorithms that have considerable promise to support our incredible clinicians in providing the best possible care to patients who need our support the most. Our goal is simple – save lives and help people to live their lives to the fullest. Stay tuned.

How does AI make HUMANCARE possible?  

Our clinicians are amazing – but they’re stretched and they’re tired. They’re constantly being asked to do more and be better and they have to deal with so much administrative work that takes away from patient care. They have incredible amounts of information to process in very limited time and they can’t constantly monitor all of their patients. AI gives clinicians the gift of time – time they can spend with patients because it has taken away the mundane tasks.

Who inspires you?

My father. He’s the epitome of perseverance – a constant reminder that anything can be achieved if you’re determined and hard-working.  

What’s the first thing you’ll do when the pandemic ends?

Travel! We’re actually planning a trip to Disney World. Watch out, Mickey.

Dr. Mamdani, who’s also Director of the Li Ka Shing Centre for Healthcare Analytics Research and Training, and the Odette Chair in Advanced Analytics at St. Michael’s Hospital, is spearheading the launch of an Institute for AI in Health at St. Michael’s. With Canada’s most advanced data, analytics and applications environment, it will position St. Michael’s as a leader in designing AI health solutions that make access to health care faster and more equitable, health systems more efficient, hospitals safer, and treatments more precise. It’s a key pillar of HUMANCARE, our movement to reinvent the patient experience.

To learn more about HUMANCARE, our movement to reinvent Canada’s patient experience, click here

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