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Demuth lectures on the role of computer science in medicine

Chief Technology Officer at Mayo Clinic Steve Demuth ('77) lectures on the applications of computer science.

Chief Technology Officer at Mayo Clinic Steve Demuth ('77) lectures on the applications of computer science.

Jorge Contreras (‘20) | Chips

Jorge Contreras (‘20) | Chips

Chief Technology Officer at Mayo Clinic Steve Demuth ('77) lectures on the applications of computer science.

Jorge Contreras, Staff Writer

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Chief Technology Officer at Mayo Clinic Steve Demuth (‘77) presented a lecture titled “Digital Medicine: Why Doctors and Computer Scientists Increasingly Need Each Other,” on Thursday, Nov. 9 in Olin 102. The lecture focused on the increasing need for computer and data scientists in the healthcare field as technology advances.

Demuth graduated from Luther with a Bachelor of Arts in physics and mathematics in 1977. He then served as the director for administrative computing at Luther from 1977 to 1992.

At the lecture, Demuth encouraged data and computer science students to consider working in the medical field, discussed the many new technological advances and applications that are being implemented in medicine, and provided examples of technology implementations at the Mayo Clinic.

Professor of Computer Science Kent Lee agreed with Demuth, emphasizing the versatility of computer science as a discipline.

“Computer science is the tool we use to do other things, like help in the practice of medicine,” Lee said. “Many advances in medicine have and will continue to come from collaboration between computer and data scientists and the medical profession. People with a background in computer science and data science and medicine will have necessary skills to make a big impact on medicine.”

During the lecture, Demuth highlighted the importance of technology at Mayo Clinic. According to Demuth, there are more than 250,000 devices that have access to Wi-Fi and are connected by one single network at Mayo Clinic. They work with thousands of different applications. For example, one of these applications related to the field of genomics, is a personalized diagnosis application that uses 500 gigabytes of pictures for the initial read of a single genome. Mayo reads around 100,000 genomes per year.

Demuth emphasized that computer scientists should work alongside doctors to develop new algorithms to improve the efficiency of specific medical areas. According to Demuth, new technologies have brought capabilities to medicine that have transformed the way healthcare is delivered in the last decade.

One such example is the new mobile interactive care plans at Mayo Clinic. Demuth believes that healthcare can still be improved, and he provided an example of an algorithm that could suggest medication titration based on complete blood counts tests and current doses within the artificial intelligence area.

“If you read our papers about machine learning, you’ll understand how everything these days is about artificial intelligence,” Demuth said. “The point of these A.I. technologies is to get machines to act without being programmed to do so. Algorithms are trained to determine likely outcomes by reviewing many cases with known outcomes.”

Lee stated that he agrees with Demuth’s ideas to improve the efficiency of healthcare with the help of new technologies to improve the work already done by humans.

“As human beings, one of our fundamental intellectual skills is pattern matching,” Lee said. “Steve said that human beings can detect patterns with up to about five different dimensions or variables. But computers can go way beyond that in pattern detection. Detection of patterns with seven or more variables is not a problem for a computer. This is one way data science and computer science are becoming important to medicine.”

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