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Mick van der Spoel - AI Thesis Award

Dutch student wins the Philips AI Thesis Award for filling blanks in brain scans

AI is revolutionising the healthcare industry. Whether it’s screening, primary care, drug interactions or the creation of new drugs, the use of machine-learning algorithms or artificial intelligence is rapidly changing the industry. The use of AI has been mainly useful to comprehend complex medical and health care data. It is further evident from the winner of this year’s Philips Data Science and Artificial Intelligence in Health Care thesis prize.

Mick van der Spoel’s AI model fills information gaps of brain tumour patients

Tilburg University’s master student Mick van der Spoel has won the Philips AI thesis award for brain tumour research. His AI model to fill information gaps of brain tumour patients by using their existing MRI scans shows the promise of AI in early detection of cancer and offering care that could help save lives.

As a master student, Van der Spoel participated in the We Care research project at Elisabeth-TweeSteden Hospital (ETZ). His research project focused on developing deep learning models for brain tumour research. During his internship, he discovered a mismatch between the scientific field of deep learning and the clinical practice needed.

In order to overcome this mismatch, Van der Spoel developed an AI model capable of creating missing MRI scans from existing MRI scans. The neurological examination of the brain usually involves four different types of MRI scans but not all of these scans are present in all patients. This makes it difficult to do the research which requires all four scans.

With Van der Spoel’s method, hospitals will be able to eliminate the need for a costly additional round of scans in some cases. After the successful development of the model, the Elisabeth-TweeSteden Hospital (ETZ) will continue to implement the model. Van der Spoel will be awarded €3,000 for winning this year’s Philips Data Science and Artificial Intelligence in Health Care thesis prize.

This news comes on the heels of Erasmus MC’s decision to set up two AI labs aimed at building trustworthy AI programs and improving the efficiency of healthcare. One of the AI labs will focus on improving MRI and being geared towards the individual patient. As the tech improves, the AI model could further improve to comprehend the data faster and offer better recommendations for health care needs.

We Care program: What you need to know

Tilburg University and the Elisabeth-TweeSteden Hospital (ETZ) have been working on a number of research projects for years. One of the research projects called Predict and Recover is focused on understanding the field of cognitive damage after a neurological condition. The We Care program is aimed at broadening their collaboration to improve patient care.

The We Care partnership offers €500,000 for research each year and all five Tilburg University Schools are involved. “All Schools can compete for research funding on the condition that they collaborate with parties within the ETZ,” professor Jantine Schuit, Dean of the Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences (TSB) said.

“The primary goal of We Care is to improve patient care. It is also a great opportunity for Tilburg University to demonstrate the added value of our research for developing good care. The different perspectives from our disciplines make us a very suitable research partner for hospitals,” Professor Bart Berden, chair of the ETZ Executive Board, said speaking about the pooling of expertise.

While the primary goal of the We Care program is to improve patient care, it is also designed to look at multiple perspectives. More than research, the program acts as a collaboration platform for medical practitioners and scientists who find their shared goal and end up looking at issues from multiple angles such as “legal, social, psychological, and economic”. The program ultimately focuses on interdisciplinary research leading to greater impact.

From data to meaningful information

Berden describes shared decision-making and data science as two themes that We Care focuses on. With shared-decision making, the program looks at the quality of life. While medical practitioners can look at the hard parameters such as risk of complications and survival when choosing a treatment, there are more relevant aspects to consider. With its shared decision-making, the We Care program advocates for knowledge sharing and allows for patients to build a “sufficient decision-making ability”.

With data science as its second theme, Schuit explains that the We Care program looks at using the technology to develop new methods of treatment and study their effectiveness. While data changes and enriches continuously, Berden adds that this data needs to be converted into meaningful information. With the program, the researchers are focused on collecting and analysing data that further their goal of improving patient care.

The first assessment round has been completed and Schuit has confirmed that a number of applications have been selected to write a more detailed grand application. After that ETZ and Tilburg University will proceed to awarding the grants. The final applicants will be selected by a committee of three Vice-Deans and two representatives from the ETZ.

The We Care program intends to encourage collaboration between physicians and researchers. Berden sees a possibility where a number of research lines within We Care can stand on their own feet with the help of European or other subsidies. “The ETZ is a place of care, research, and knowledge transfer. Collaboration in research brings the hospital to fruition,” he added.

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