Meet them where they are

Altoona is a small city in central Pennsylvania—a company town founded by the Pennsylvania Railroad. In late May, residents and faculty from all eight UPMC family medicine residency programs across the state gathered at a conference center there for a scholarship day. Pitt family medicine chair Tracey Conti, an MD, gushed about the 33 research presentations she was taking in.

“If we just stay in the academic center, we’re missing so much,” Conti said. “Think about the cascade of care and the small percentage of patients that actually hit the academic center. If we only learn from patients from there, we’re really not doing the scholarship and providing good clinical advancements for the majority of the population. Working across the system and collaborating outside allows you so much more growth.”

John Maier, an MD, PhD assistant professor of family medicine and the department’s director of innovation and strategic initiatives, says discovering and implementing new solutions from family medicine in a timely manner will require greater investments in electronic health records, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

In response to a call from Dean Anantha Shekhar and in collaboration with Shyam Visweswaran from the Department of Biomedical Informatics, Maier introduced the entire Class of 2025 to these topics in the spring. The school’s longer-term goal: Require all students to learn about AI and machine learning in enough depth to responsibly use them to care for patients and carry out research.

Maier’s introduction for the class sent the message that AI and machine learning aren’t only the purview of the biomedical informatics or computational biology departments.  

Read more from the Winter 2022/23 issue.