IBA and AKU collaborate to facilitate research opportunities

The Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi and Department of Medicine of the Aga Khan University (AKU) Karachi signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to provide a fully funded, research training opportunities in Data Science and Non-communicable diseases to four candidates.

The MoU signing ceremony was held at AKU and Dr. S Akbar Zaidi, Executive Director, IBA; and Sulaiman Shahbuddin, President, AKU, graced the event as chief guests.

Dr. Shakeel Khoja, Dean School of Mathematics and Computer Science, IBA and Dr. Adil Haider, Dean Medical College, AKU signed the agreement on behalf of their respective institutions. The collaboration aims to enable and support aspirational Data Science students interested in the research of NCDs. Selected students will be fully funded for their Master’s in Data Science from SMCS, IBA, and will be provided with the opportunity to work as a paid Research Instructor for two years at the Department of Medicine, AKU. Furthermore, the program includes mentorship by IBA, AKU and Duke University Faculty.

The IBA team included Dr. Tariq Mahmood, Professor and Program Coordinator, MS Computer Science and MS Data science programs; Dr. Shahid Hussain, Chairperson, Computer Science department; and Dr. Sajjad Haider, Professor, Computer Science department. AKU was represented by Dr. Zainab Samad, Ibn-e-Sina Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine and Director, CITRIC Health Data Science Centre; Dr. Adil Haider, Dean Medical College, and other faculty members.

The event commenced with opening remarks by Dr. Zainab Samad and Dr. Gerald Bloomfield, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine and Global Health Institute, Duke University.

A panel discussion moderated by Dr. Sarmad ensued and included the following speakers: Dr. Sajjad Haider, Professor, Computer Science Department, IBA; Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Paediatrics & Child Health, AKU; Dr. John Bartlett, Professor of Medicine, Global Health and Nursing, Duke University; Dr. Ayeesha Kamal, Professor of Neurology, AKU and Dr. Aysha Almas, Associate Professor of Medicine, AKU.

Dr. Haider elaborated that the collaboration would enable academics from AKU and IBA to investigate the applications of existing machine learning algorithms for healthcare problems such as patient stay prediction, the possibility of readmission, and early warning systems to predict patient risk at an early stage. Additionally, the joint effort would also focus on the application of computer vision techniques on medical images and text analytics techniques on clinical notes and radiologist reports. This collaboration would also provide an avenue to develop novel methods for explainable Artificial Intelligence in the health domain.

Addressing the audience Dr. Zaidi commended AKU for organizing an excellent event and for playing an integral role in this collaboration between IBA, AKU and Duke University to train researchers who can understand and contribute towards suggesting and developing low-cost solutions to NCDs. He also said that IBA and AKU collaboration will bring great research opportunities for his colleagues.

Sharing his views, Dr. Khoja said that “This is a unique academic partnership in Pakistan between the IBA and AKU, where academics will work in their own domains to carry out research in order to solve local problems and challenges.”

Expressing his appreciation, Mr. Shahbuddin thanked Dr. Zaidi for gracing the event with his presence. Furthermore, he said that as a proud IBA alumnus, he was delighted at this collaboration between the two finest institutes, the AKU and the IBA, which have come together to deliver this project on Data Science and building capacities for research in NCDs in Pakistan.

Speaking about the Program structure, Dr. Tariq Mahmood said, “The exact method through which this program will be executed is through first identifying the NCD health indicators. Then we are going to create problem statements and research questions pertaining to the improvement of these health indicators. We will then convert these problems to formal projects to be executed in the MSDS program as MS theses, MS projects or course projects. Furthermore, we will strive for maximum performance through aggressive hands-on activities in data science skills.”

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