Can We Build Less Biased Medical Bots?
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Reasons to be Cheerful
Posted: March 5th, 2023
Avery Smith ... and LaToya, a podiatrist, tied the knot in 2008. A year and a half into their marriage ... she was diagnosed with Stage 2A Melanoma. A minor surgical procedure is usually enough to cure it. But the following 18 months were revealing for Smith; on December 9th, 2011, LaToya died. He was left scarred by the experience: “I learned about going through illness while being Black,” he says. Today, over a decade later, Smith is putting his skills as a software developer to work in an effort to end the racial bias and inequity in skin care that contributed to his wife’s death. In 2021, he launched Melalogic, a Baltimore-based startup that provides skin health resources to people with dark skin. A 2016 study shows that the five-year survival rate of Black people with skin cancer is 65 percent, compared to 92 percent for white people. The problem is rooted in racial inequities and biases in medical research and technology. In skin cancers, for instance, AI systems have been used to drastically improve diagnosis. However, these are mostly helpful to white people because diagnostic AI datasets are trained with images of white skin. Smith teamed up with dermatologist Dr. Adewole Adamson to conduct a research project, endorsed by the American Medical Association, on machine learning and health care disparities in dermatology. It was from the research’s findings that Smith conceived Melalogic, an app ... dedicated to providing Black people with skin health resources.
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