Task force report outlines future for AI use at UNMC

Emily Glenn and Rachel Lookadoo, JD

Emily Glenn and Rachel Lookadoo, JD

The two co-chairs of UNMC’s artificial intelligence task force say they’re sensing a new buzz and excitement around the UNMC campus about the rapidly emerging AI technology.

Now the group led by Emily Glenn, dean of the McGoogan Health Sciences Library, and Rachel Lookadoo, JD, assistant professor of environmental, agricultural and occupational health in the UNMC College of Public Health, has released the first framework for UNMC to prepare for the new AI-influenced future across the academic medical center.

The UNMC AI Task Force Report outlines ways to best take advantage of the AI transformation – using generative AI’s potential for innovation, shaping policies to guide its use and bringing together UNMC professionals already involved in the field.

But the report, formed by a 65-member task force that crossed UNMC and its clinical partners, also outlines the many threats, with guidance for how UNMC can start to manage those.

Overall, the report contains a series of goals and recommendations for policies in the areas of education, research, clinical care, business functions and the landscape of AI-fed disinformation, misinformation and bias. With many details still to come from subsequent discussions, the results are meant to be the first guidance for how UNMC can thrive, as the report describes, in an environment becoming increasingly saturated by generative AI.

See the report online through DigitalCommons at the McGoogan Library.

Since the task force committee went to work last summer, the field already has undergone huge changes, Lookadoo said. But around UNMC, she said, the appetite for capitalizing on AI’s potential also has grown.

“There’s such a growing awareness of how AI may impact education and research,” Lookadoo said. “But there are a lot of questions on what that functionally can look like. So this seems like very much the moment for us to be doing this work.”

Glenn said professionals across the med center have a hunger for policies and parameters around AI use. They also want to use it to innovate, she said, and to develop a community of practice for AI at UNMC.

“There are a lot of unknowns – we have to be willing to explore and move forward,” Glenn said. “There is no slowing down.”

In outlining the future for AI use at UNMC, the report recognizes UNMC as being known both locally and globally for embracing and advancing innovation — and having the same commitment to AI with a range of AI-related programs and projects already occurring. Going forward, the report concludes, UNMC can be a leader in the realm of AI in higher education by aligning its ongoing efforts and strong in-house talent base.

The report outlines a need for:

  • Clear policies that can be adapted to the ever-changing AI landscape.
  • Robust communication, consistent education and sustained funding around AI.
  • An ongoing AI workgroup, coordination across all UNMC colleges and centers and diverse teams to help UNMC navigate AI practices.

The report also offers a timeline for the early goals, along with medium and longer-term goals, that UNMC should strive to achieve. Within this year, the report urges UNMC to:

  • Prepare employees and students for the integration of AI technologies to enhance learning.
  • Develop a shared philosophy for AI application to education.
  • Develop a comprehensive inventory of research teams across UNMC who are using AI approaches in their research.
  • Engage in current disinformation scholarship to determine most pressing harms.

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, and Dele Davies, MD, the senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean for graduate studies, welcomed the report.

In a preface to the report, Dr. Gold and Dr. Davies said UNMC and its partners “seek to develop appropriate AI-related corridors that are safe and creative at the same time.” The report, they said, “will become part of UNMC’s future and will enable UNMC to continue to be a pioneering leader in education, research and clinical care.”

As a practical first step since the report was published, UNMC’s leadership has adopted the report as part of its annual strategic planning discussions.

Said Dr. Gold: “The opportunities through generative AI are accelerating rapidly, offering great potential to benefit health care. We can expect AI will become more and more a part of what we do, and we have to embrace that.

“While there is substantial risk in generative AI’s development, there is little question that it is here to stay. We’ve been very fortunate in that we are ahead of the curve in the AI world among many institutions and academic medical centers.”

As a next step, UNMC has tasked ongoing work groups with taking the recommendations from the AI Task Force and starting to look at tactics, or possibly even products in some cases, to implement those recommendations, Dr. Davies said.

Those discussions and their leaders are:

  • Education: The UNMC Education Council, a group of senior education leaders from UNMC, Nebraska Medicine and the UNMC Student Senate, who serve in an advisory role to Dr. Davies.
  • Research: Howard Fox, professor in the UNMC Department of Neurological Sciences and senior associate dean of research and development for the UNMC College of Medicine.
  • Clinical: Chad Vokoun, MD, division chief for hospital medicine and associate program director for the internal medicine residency program, in partnership with Scott Raymond, vice president-chief information and innovation officer with Nebraska Medicine.
  • Business functions: Frank Bogatz, chief academic information system officer for UNMC.
  • Misinformation, disinformation and bias: Lookadoo

As AI continues to evolve, Dr. Davies said, UNMC leadership will have a community of practice across the med center to offer a forum where ideas, best practices and pressing discussions on AI can be exchanged.

Dr. Davies said he’s pleased with where UNMC is positioned on the issues around AI – having a good sense of how it can use AI, supporting its experts working on AI issues from the ground up and putting institutional mechanisms in place to keep the discussions going and make decisions as they arise.

“That’s really the vision of the future for us,” Dr. Davies said. “What are the ways in which we can actually use AI to enhance our education, to enhance our research our enhance, enhance our business practices, to enhance overall even the way we engage in our communities?”

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