Nashville, TN (TN Tribune)–Meharry Medical College has announced that it has joined the leadership core for a new two-year $100 million award funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to lead the Coordinating Center for the Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) Consortium to Advance Health Equity and Researcher Diversity (AIM-AHEAD) program.

Through coordinated partnerships to enhance the participation and representation of researchers and communities currently underrepresented in the development of AI/ML models, several Meharrians will help execute the program including Dr. Anil Shanker, senior vice president for research and innovation; Dr. Paul Juarez, professor and director, Health Disparities Research Center of Excellence; Dr. Qingguo Wang, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science and Data Science and Dr. Rajbir Singh, assistant professor of internal medicine, and lead on several large multi-institutional clinical studies.

“Lack of diversity of both data and researchers runs the risk of creating harmful biases in the algorithms, practice and outcome of health care data as we continue to combat health disparities and inequities faced by underrepresented and underserved communities,” said Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, president and CEO of Meharry Medical College. “This mutually beneficial partnership made possible by the NIH provides the right funding, infrastructure and training needed to implement a transformative approach to improve health for all.”

The program’s innovative plan will also improve the capabilities of emerging technology beginning with the closure of gaps in the AI/ML field—such as electronic health records (EHR)—and then extend to other diverse data sets. Drs. Shanker, Juarez and Singh will focus on forging strategic partnerships of research and clinical networks with the stakeholder communities. Dr. Wang will assist in executing the program by coordinating the efforts with the AIM-AHEAD’s technical cores of training, research and infrastructure.

“Building a consortium with the right partners and key stakeholders is paramount to planning, assessment and capacity building to advance health equity and researcher diversity,” said Dr. Shanker. “As a historically Black academic health sciences center in Middle Tennessee, Meharry is well-positioned to help the minority-serving institutions and HBCUs across the Southeast to conduct the most innovative and impactful health disparities research using the latest AI/ML tools.”
The consortium also includes members from the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center in Fort Worth; Vanderbilt University Medical Center; the University of Houston; the University of Colorado-Anschutz Medical Center; the University of California, Los Angeles; Morehouse School of Medicine; Johns Hopkins University; Howard University; the National Alliance Against Disparities in Patient Health; Harvard Medical School and Oregon Community Health Information Network (OCHIN).

To learn more about AIM-AHEAD and its mission, visit the NIH’s Office of Data Science Strategy here.