“My passion is tech, but with a purpose – healthcare,” says Elizabeth Lindsay-Wood, Vice President and Chief Information Officer of City of Hope Cancer Center. For Elizabeth, one of the best parts about working in the health-tech field is being able to support the center’s clinical providers, patients and their families through the technology structure that she and her team create.
Elizabeth’s inspiration to work in the technology industry began in her early 20s, when she worked in a data entry job. From there, she continued to cultivate her skillset and knowledgebase in tech. “I went on to learn how to run computer operations, put together PCs, write code and, most importantly, how the business works,” says Elizabeth. “I found early that I had a passion to lead and was given that opportunity early in my career.”
Elizabeth has held several IT leadership roles, mostly as a CIO, for large health systems. During her career, she has been responsible for multiple achievements in healthcare technology, including “smart alert” algorithms for predicting “potential adverse events,” and the first electronic ICU.
In her current role, Elizabeth’s work involves marrying research with AI capabilities. “Because we have both the research institute and the clinical care setting [at the center], using algorithms, AI, and ML (machine learning) are all part of leveraging real-world evidence in research and applying research, such as drug discovery and clinical trials, with our patients.”
Elizabeth highlights the copious amount of research that shows how AI benefits patients and healthcare research. For example, Elizabeth says AI has been shown to contribute to “driving better outcomes for patients, reducing inaccuracies in coding of records, and predictive analytics for conditions like sepsis, reducing mortality.” At City of Hope, using AI and ML has both a business and research focus.
Although Elizabeth knows that some people fear that AI is “evil” or will replace humans, she believes this stems from the term AI being misunderstood and unexplained. “Some of it is advanced and complex,” says Elizabeth, but she argues that much of the technology can be explained in terms of how it works and how it complements human work.
AI can help sift through databases faster and more efficiently than humans, which is critical, particularly in healthcare, and Elizabeth’s team is currently working on such a project. “We are presently working on a platform, leveraging the cloud, to enable true clinical [trials]-matching based on genetics, [and matching] social Artificial Intelligence to medical records to find more better-matching patients for clinical trials in minutes rather than months,” she explains. “The research arm of the organization is constantly working with algorithms.”
When Elizabeth explains her AI projects to her non-tech friends and family, she presents them in ways that are applicable to their lives. “To try to talk about deep learning, neural nets, and all the words used in the industry over the years can be a bit overwhelming,” she says. “Talking about how social media learns about you and your interests is a little less daunting.”
While Elizabeth recalls feeling like she was already living in the future when purchasing a new Nvidia DGX A100, which is a technology (5 petaflops) made for “end-to-end machine learning workflow,” she also looks forward to what the future will bring for AI in healthcare. “Thinking about precision medicine, curing and preventing disease using AI technologies, is so important for us and our future generations,” she says.
To address the underrepresentation of women in STEM, Elizabeth recommends offering programs for girls, such as in-school programs and community-based programs, to foster an interest in STEM from a young age: “We need to build the pipeline for the future with programs for female youth appealing to different cultures to attract females and increase our diversity."
Elizabeth encourages women who are pursuing careers in STEM to “work ridiculously hard,” and to “build all the skills [they] need, not just the technical ones.” She also advises women to connect with mentors and find opportunities to develop a national and an international presence, such as engaging and networking with group memberships and tech-focused organizations.
Her final piece of advice is to “have fun, enjoy what you do, [and] be true to your values.”