Precision health perspectives | UCI news

In February, UCI launched the Institute for Precision Health, a campus-wide, interdisciplinary venture that combines UCI’s powerhouse health sciences, engineering, machine learning, artificial intelligence, clinical genomics and data science. The aim is to identify, create and implement the most effective health and wellness strategy for each individual person, addressing the associated challenges of health equity and high healthcare costs.

IPH will bring a multi-faceted, integrated approach to what many are calling the next great advance in healthcare. The institute is an ecosystem for collaboration between disciplines.

In addition to being co-director and medical director of the Institute for Precision Health, Dr. Alpesh N. Amin, professor and chair of medicine, founded and developed UCI Health’s innovative hospital program. Hospitalists are physicians primarily focused on caring for hospitalized patients and running high-quality, efficient hospitals.

Amin says he enjoys every opportunity to use his combined MD and MBA background, and his role at the Institute for Precision Health is the true dream come true. “I’ve had many opportunities to help improve the quality and safety of patient care at UCI, but IPH really is the next level. It gives us the ability to use health data the way I always envisioned it should be used: to provide the very best care and the best chance of good health,” he says.

Amin has been recognized as one of “America’s Top Physicians” by Consumers’ Research Council of America, and he has published hundreds of articles in academic publications. Here he talks about why he is so passionate about being on the ground floor of IPH.

You have had a long career as a doctor, hospital doctor, researcher and professor. What intrigues you about IPH?

I am most interested in this opportunity to use data to create value. I’d like to see us develop healthcare technology like the auto industry has done. If I’m in an advanced car like a Tesla, and I want to go from point A to point B, that gives me the route. If something distracts me while driving, I hear an alarm to get my attention and avoid an accident. And if I’m on my way and 15 miles ahead, an accident happens, I’m diverted. So basically it accompanies my journey. Precision health offers the potential to also guide patients on their health journey. And this potential really interests me.

I know that data will impact patient care and care delivery, outcomes and population and individual health in meaningful ways. That is what I want.

Do these changes feel imminent?

To stick with the transportation metaphor, I’d say we’re still building the plane. When my mother was a small child who grew up mainly in India, she and her parents moved to Africa for a while. The only way to get to Africa was by boat, which took weeks. Of course, today you can fly from India to Africa in a few hours.

For accurate health purposes, we have the data and we know where our Africa is – that is, where we want to go. And we know we can fly there, it’s possible. But we still need to build the right plane. And then we have to keep refining the plane to make the experience and results better and better.

My father is a structural engineer. He designs skyscrapers. Sixty or 70 years ago, there was only hope that you could build a skyscraper over 100 stories. There was certainly interest because land became more and more expensive and there was not much of it. So people knew they had to go up, but it wasn’t done. Now we have many skyscrapers over 100 floors. I think my point is that we tend to innovate when necessary, when the will is there. I think the question is, are we motivated to create a world where health data is used the way it should be used – for the benefit of every person and community?

You have a lasting appreciation for data. Is that correct?

Yes! Twenty years ago, when I started my career, I wrote down a list of five or six goals or at least things I wanted to do with my professional life that I thought would have an impact. I actually still have that piece of paper. One of my goals: to become a data-driven physician.

I knew I would have a medical career for 30, 40, or even 50 years. I wanted to think about what I could do to make an impact. My train of thought was, “Well, I’m not going to be a professional athlete. What can I do to really make a difference?”

Was a career as a professional athlete a serious possibility?

Yes, there was a time when I could have pursued a baseball career. I had coaches and others told me I could do it. I decided not to exercise, but to follow the doctor’s path. However, I applied a kind of athletic mindset to the whole thing. I had my intention to become a doctor, but knew I needed goals and to be passionate about my career. I thought if I was going to be doing something for over 30 to 40 years, why not make an impact? Anyway, that’s how I got on the list and got focused on the idea of ​​being data-driven.

Of course, data is at the heart of precision medicine.

It is. But you know, data is at the heart of almost everything that is successful. When I develop a new program, there must be financial sustainability. I need data to substantiate that. When I do research, there is of course data on that. When I treat patients, I want to deliver the highest quality of care and the best results. I need data to define my idea of ​​what quality is. I think we all know by now that data is essential. It’s just with precision medicine, we will be able to do more with data, and eventually it will lead to better care and more medical breakthroughs. I am in the process of creating resources that allow us to further innovate in health and patient care, and ultimately translate that knowledge and approach forward. This is what really inspires me.

What do you expect or hope in the coming years? Do you feel like this is moving fast, or do you think we’ll see slow, incremental improvements?

It all depends on us! It’s part resources, part people, part culture, part vision, part commitment. The speed at which we move forward depends on everything!

But here we are at the beginning, and I feel like we’re the lucky ones who can say, we started it, we built it. Whoever is up front here is lucky enough to be able to do the innovation part of the project. We will build the structure and the first partnerships, which is quite amazing. There is always a next phase, which is further innovation, or the next person or group that comes in, but I’ll be happy to say that I was here in the beginning and made the effort to create IPH.

In a way, you’re like your father building skyscrapers…

I didn’t think like that before, but still. IPH is a kind of skyscraper at the UCI. It will reach epic heights – metaphorically! I have an MD and an MBA, so what I really like is thinking in terms of medicine and building sustainable innovation – that is, purpose-driven businesses that are scalable. When I can bring those worlds together, I’m excited. And if they’re “skyscrapers,” that’s great too.

Is purpose the key here?

Absolute. Everyone who works with IPH sees the purpose of healing patients – not just publishing papers or anything like that. Nothing against academic papers – I have about 250 papers that I’ve published – but that’s just not the point here. Although we publish papers, we mainly want to do things that have an impact. And by that I mean better people’s health. There is extremely tangible value with precision health and IPH. I think that’s cool. And it’s great to be able to develop this and see where it leads.

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About UCI Institute for Precision HealthFounded in February 2022, the Institute for Precision Health (IPH) is a versatile, integrated collaboration ecosystem that maximizes the collective understanding of patient data sets and the power of computing algorithms, predictive modeling, and AI. IPH marries the UCI’s powerhouses in health sciences, engineering, machine learning, artificial intelligence, clinical genomics and data science to deliver the most effective health and wellness strategy for each individual while addressing the associated challenges of health equality and the high costs of care. Part of UCI Health Affairs, IPH is co-led by Tom Andriola, Vice Chancellor for Information, Technology and Data, and Leslie Thompson, Donald Bren Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and Neurobiology and Behavior. IPH consists of seven areas: SMART (statistics, machine learning-artificial intelligence), A2IR (applied research on artificial intelligence), A3 (applied analysis and artificial intelligence), Precision Omics (promotes the translation of genomic, proteomic and metabolomic research results into clinical applications), Collaboratory for Health & Wellness (provides the ecosystem that fosters collaboration across disciplines through the integration of health-related data sources), Deployable Equity (engages community stakeholders and health groups to create solutions that address the disparities in the health and well-being of underserved and at-risk groups.) and Education and Training (provides data-centric education to students and caregivers so they can practice on top of their license).

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