Jayashree Kalpathy-Cramer, PhD, has been named chief of the new Division of Artificial Medical Intelligence in Ophthalmology at the University of Colorado (CU) School of Medicine. In her new role, Kalpathy-Cramer will translate novel artificial intelligence (AI) methods into effective patient care practices at the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center.
Kalpathy-Cramer is currently director of the QTIM lab and the Center for Machine Learning at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and an associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School. She joins the CU faculty on May 1.
“This is a phenomenal opportunity. Artificial intelligence has so many potential uses in ophthalmology, and CU is a great place to deploy AI to advance patient care,” Kalpathy-Cramer says. “Ophthalmologists have been working in AI for a while, but now we have an opportunity to take it to the next level and make a meaningful difference.”
Charting her own path to AI
Growing up in India, Kalpathy-Cramer was introduced to science and engineering at a young age. Her mother was a physics professor during a time when women had to fight to receive higher levels of education, while her father had travelled to Germany to earn his PhD. Inspired by her parents’ educational journeys, Kalpathy-Cramer moved from India to upstate New York to attend graduate school and has since lived around the world, from California and Oregon to Singapore, Germany, and Boston.
Kalpathy-Cramer has worked in machine learning and AI broadly for the past decade, using mathematical and statistical methods to look for patterns in data to improve health care through analytics.
“We are so excited to have Dr. Kalpathy-Cramer, a world-renowned leader in imaging AI, join us here in Colorado to lead our new Division of Artificial Medical Intelligence in the Department of Ophthalmology,” says Naresh Mandava, MD, chair of the CU Department of Ophthalmology and Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Chair in Retinal Diseases. “We're excited to collaborate with her and apply her excellence in machine learning and other AI technologies to ophthalmology and sight-threatening diseases overall. Her research on diseases such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and other blinding eye diseases will have a long-lasting impact on patients everywhere.”
Casey Greene, PhD, who was named director of the Center for Health Artificial Intelligence at the CU School of Medicine in 2020, is looking forward to expanding AI research and technologies at the university into the field of ophthalmology.
“I’m excited that Dr. Kalpathy-Cramer will be joining the community of researchers who work at the intersection of AI and health care here at CU,” Greene says. “This community’s continued growth will position our campus to develop and deploy new technologies that improve the lives of patients.”
Implementing AI into patient care
Kalpathy-Cramer believes integrating AI methods into patient care will lead to a more proactive health care approach, identifying patterns and trends in individuals and populations throughout and beyond the Rocky Mountain region to improve outcomes and efficiencies.
“I think AI can help standardize care,” she explains. “I am especially passionate about our work that has impact in underserved communities. The idea of being able to take the best knowledge we have and translate it into something that can be deployed across not only the hospital system, but across the country and the world, is very powerful. The ability to potentially reduce overtreatment and improve the quality and consistency of care is another area where AI can be helpful in ophthalmology.”
Malik Kahook, MD, Slater Family Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology at the CU School of Medicine and vice chair of translational research at the Sue-Anschutz Rodgers Eye Center, sees Kalpathy-Cramer’s real-world implementation approach as a means to enhance the efficiency and personalization of patient care across the department’s numerous subspecialty clinics.
“AI is a powerful tool that continues to evolve, with significant advances made in the research setting,” Kahook says. “Implementing these advanced algorithms in our clinics will act as a tool to optimize diagnostic capabilities, perfect care plan selection, and enhance treatment outcomes. I am excited for the opportunity to work with and learn from Dr. Kalpathy-Cramer. Her expertise will turbo-charge our department efforts to become a global leader in artificial medical intelligence.”
With an initial focus on age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma upon joining the CU School of Medicine faculty, Kalpathy-Cramer also hopes to expand upon her studies of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a potentially blinding disorder typically affecting premature infants.
“Working with clinical collaborators, we've developed a diagnostic algorithm that we hope will be translated into patient care. Such a tool might help reduce preventable blindness in babies worldwide,” she explains. “That work is something I'm proud of. I'm really proud of our students and the work that has been done in our lab over the last decade. I'm hoping to continue growing the lab at CU as a place where people do meaningful work, and where they excited about coming to work every day.”