Meharry and Alabama A&M to partner on NIMHD-funded artificial intelligence research

data science academics and research

Meharry School of Applied Computational Sciences and Alabama A&M will work together to identify artificial intelligence biases and educate others in ethical and responsible AI. The partnership is possible through funding from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD).

The $218,250 grant is a supplement to NIMHD funding to the Meharry RCMI Program in Health Disparities Research. Vibhuti Gupta, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science and data science, will lead a team that includes Co-PI Ebony Weems, Ph.D., assistant professor biomedical science/ biomedical data science at Alabama A&M.

“Trustworthy and ethical AI is critical in health care,” says Dr. Gupta. “Otherwise there can be algorithmic and societal bias in the predictions, which leads to misdiagnosis, maltreatment, and disparities affecting the trustworthiness of AI systems.”

Ebony Weems, Ph.D.
Dr. Weems

Dr. Weems will help design the virtual tutorial series and develop AI ethics modules that empower students to critically analyze the ethical implications of AI in the Biological Sciences and its potential impact on health disparities.  She is a Meharry alumna, with a doctorate in the Biomedical Sciences.

“An important component of the RCMI grant is to include educational opportunities for ethical AI, especially at HBCUs,” says Dr. Gupta. “As faculty at Alabama A&M and a strong student in our M.S. Biomedical Data Science program, adding Dr. Weems to the project team was an easy decision.”

Dr. Weems plans to begin incorporating artificial intelligence into some of her upper-level biology courses. 

“I have already transitioned the class to study cellular and molecular diseases using bioinformatic tools. The biological sciences are evolving and embracing a computational and integrative view will be beneficial in the future. This approach will provide our students with tools that will increase competitiveness and that they can use in their health-related careers.”” she says.

Dr. Weems adds that the RCMI supplement grant also presents a new funding opportunity for Alabama A&M.

“We have received grants from the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, NASA, NSF and other sources,” she says. “.”

“This NIH grant will help to foster a great opportunity for future partnerships and programs that we will develop in the future,” she adds.

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