DASH: knowledge hub, community and facilitator in health data science
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DASH, UMCG’s Data Science Center in Health, has been established in 2019 and has since been ‘the spider in the web’ in the developments regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data science at the UMCG. DASH supports professionals, researchers, educators, students and private partners with respect to machine learning, data science and AI; stimulates awareness and advancements in data science and AI within the UMCG, locally and regionally; and is aiming to become the centre of expertise for data science and AI in health in the northern region. The UMCG heavily invests in data science and AI in the coming years. Therefore, DASH had the possibility to expand their team and invest in the appointment of experts in the field of e-Health, AI, Machine Learning, and Clinical Cohort Data. These experts will focus on expanding knowledge, creating collaborations and putting the UMCG on the map in these fields.

Innovative research ideas

DASH welcomes all researchers who need help with innovative research and teaching ideas regarding AI and data science in health. DASH provides assistance in overcoming major challenges that researchers face in applying data science and finding and accessing suitable research IT facilities; problems that emerge during innovative research approaches that push the boundaries of what is currently possible. Often researchers cannot solve such problems on their own and need the help of other experts or partners. Frank Schröer, manager and programme manager at DASH: “At DASH we want to connect researchers that work with large sets of data and want to use AI and data science, and help them improve and strengthen each other.” DASH also showcases existing best practice solutions, on the way to UMCG-wide and broader implementation.

Collaborations in the region

Three years ago, when AI was already rapidly advancing in the field of medical science, the UMCG chose to set up a programme that focuses on AI and data science in health: DASH. Today, DASH is very successful; both internal and external parties are well aware of where to find DASH and which support DASH can offer and the DASH network has rapidly expanded to now include hundreds of participants. Schröer elaborates: “The UMCG is an important player in the field of AI and data science in the northern Netherlands, therefore we aim to collaborate more with our partners in the region, such as the Hanzehogeschool and the University of Groningen, but also with other hospitals and companies in the area.”

Expanding the team with new experts

The field of AI and data science is still developing every day and Schröer and his team are reflecting on how to anchor DASH within the UMCG. The workload of DASH constantly increases and with support from the UMCG the team has now been expanded with three experts to take the program to the next level: Esther Metting in e-Health, Job Doornberg in the Clinical Implementation Artificial Intelligence, and Rozemarijn Vliegenthart in Clinical Cohort Data. Peter van Ooijen was already part of the DASH-team with his expertise in Machine Learning. 

These fields are often incorrectly mentioned in the same breath. Although the disciplines certainly have common ground, they are not synonymous with each other. E-Health focuses in particular on digital applications in healthcare: the use of information and communication technology to support or improve health and healthcare. Data Science is about 'creating value' from (clinical cohort) data. Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is the technology that allows computers to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, Machine Learning as a subset of AI enables machines to learn from experience using statistical methods. Deep learning, in turn, is part of machine learning, which uses deep neural networks that mimic the workings of the human brain to learn independently from large amounts of data. 

This team of experts will focus on expanding knowledge, creating collaborations and putting the UMCG on the map for their respective fields. This is in line with the strategic plan of the UMCG for the next years (‘Koers25), which emphasizes data driven work.

DASH in education and research

DASH supports and contributes to various projects within the UMCG. Schröer mentions the educational project AIProHealth (practical artificial intelligence for healthcare professionals): “In this project we want to teach healthcare professionals what AI can mean in their daily job.” The AIProHealth project brings experts from all areas and sectors (public and private) of healthcare, and the serious gaming communities with partners from the Netherlands, Germany, Estonia and Denmark together to co-create a unique program to put the hype of AI in perspective, while removing the fear of using AI in healthcare practice. AIProHealth was selected for funding as part of the EIT Health Education Portfolio 2021, enabling the first steps to be taken in the right direction. The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) of AIProHealth will launch later this year on the FutureLearn platform.

The role of AI in healthcare is also consistently growing. In the project ‘B3CARE’ researchers aim to determine the imaging biomarkers (measurable biological indicators) for lung cancer, lung emphysema and cardiovascular disease by building an imaging data biobank and validating automated AI software. The ultimate goal of B3Care is early detection and faster treatment of these conditions. “Within the B3CARE project, DASH collaborates with experts in the fields of radiology, lung disease, heart disease and artificial intelligence and contributes to more involvement of both national and international companies in imaging and image analysis, machine learning and deep learning.”

Altogether, AI has a lot of potential and the impact is quite big: it can be lifesaving in the future, but more research needs to be done to continuously improve this technology. DASH will continue to help develop data science and AI within the UMCG in the coming years.

More information about DASH