Harvard Medical School Creating AI in Medicine Ph.D. Track

Sept. 5, 2023
Department of Biomedical Informatics says mission is to train students to use large-scale biomedical data and cutting-edge AI methods to create new technologies and clinically impactful research

The Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) at Harvard Medical School is creating an AI in Medicine Ph.D. track to prepare the next generation of leaders at the intersection of artificial intelligence and medicine. Applications are opening in September 2023 for a program starting in the fall of 2024.

The Artificial Intelligence in Medicine (AIM) PhD track will be led by co-directors DBMI Chair Isaac “Zak” Kohane and Harvard Medical School Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology Sebastian Schneeweiss.

The program’s mission is to train exceptional computational students, harnessing large-scale biomedical data and cutting-edge AI methods, to create new technologies and clinically impactful research that transform medicine around the world, increasing both the quality and equity of health outcomes.

DBMI stresses that the program transcends traditional boundaries between fields such as statistics, computer science, bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, epidemiology, and clinical medicine, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. Students will work to acquire the skills to build tools and infrastructure that improve individual and population health, addressing the needs of patients, providers, and clinical care systems alike.

The trainees will take clinical coursework at Harvard Medical School and perform hospital rotations alongside medical students and other Ph.D. trainees from Harvard and MIT.

The cornerstone of the required core courses in the program is the flagship AI in Medicine I & II sequence, taught by leading AI researchers at DBMI, including Kohane, Arjun Manrai, Chirag Patel, Pranav Rajpurkar, Kun Hsing-Yu, and Marinka Zitnik. This sequence will give students the knowledge to create AI that cuts across the latest modalities in fields such as computer vision, generative language models, and graph neural networks, incorporating diverse data types to improve clinical decision-making and biomedical research.

Another aspect of the AIM track is its co-mentorship model, bringing together both methodological and applied clinical mentorship for each student’s research. With the help of program leadership, students will select one technical mentor in addition to one hospital-based clinical mentor by the end of the second year. This model enables significant value exchange between DBMI and affiliated hospitals while providing our students mentorship that increases the translational impact of their work.

Also launching in the fall of 2024 will be a Master of Medical Sciences in Biomedical Informatics (MMSc-BMI) degree program. Led by DBMI Associate Professor Nils Gehlenborg, it is a two-year thesis master's program for candidates with a baccalaureate or postgraduate degree interested in rigorous didactic and mentored research training in biomedical informatics. MMSc trainees will complete coursework during the first year and engage in a thesis research project under the mentorship of a Harvard Medical School faculty member during their second year. The MMSc-BMI program will be an enhanced version of its predecessor, the Master of Biomedical Informatics (MBI) program, by offering a more rigorous research experience that includes two semesters dedicated to research work and a longer tenure in the Harvard ecosystem.

For the MMSc-BMI program, applications for fall 2024 admission will open in October of 2023.

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