IBM's Watson Computer System to Collaborate with Medical Students

By Chris Hassan
Posted November 07, 2012 11:00 AM

Medical students to work with IBM's Watson computer system.
Medical students to work with IBM's Watson computer system.
When people think of celebrities, visions of movie stars like Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie, or controversial musicians like Lady Gaga, may come to mind. Computers, however, typically do not - unless they are thinking about Watson, IBM's famous artificial intelligence computer system, which is very much a celebrity. After all, how many computers have competed on television's Jeopardy! and won $1 million?

The Watson computer system, which is named after Thomas J. Watson, IBM's first president, has the ability to answer people's questions. IBM believes Watson can be put to work within the healthcare and finance sectors to transform the ways in which organizations think, act and operate, according to the technology company's website.

Watson has collaborated with students in the past, and is now set to visit a medical school, which will benefit both the computer system and healthcare professionals.

Medical Students to Expand Their Thinking With Watson's Help

The New York Times reports that Watson is headed to Ohio, where it will become a medical student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. At the institution, the computer system will advance its understanding of the medical field with help from Cleveland clinicians and doctoral degree students who will answer Watson's questions and correct any mistakes it makes.

While Watson will not be certified as a doctor, there is the hope that the computer system will gain enough knowledge to assist physicians with the constantly growing volume of new medical research in the world.

"Every day, physicians and scientists around the world add more and more information to what I think of as an ever-expanding, global medical library," said C. Martin Harris, the Cleveland Clinic's chief information officer, in an IBM press release. "Cleveland Clinic's collaboration with IBM is exciting because it offers us the opportunity to teach Watson to 'think' in ways that have the potential to make it a powerful tool in medicine. Technology like this can allow us to leverage that medical library to help train our students and also find new ways to address the public health challenges we face today."

A History of Student Collaboration

Watson's enrollment in medical school will not be the first time it has interacted with students, as the computer system visited both Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley in 2011, according to an IBM press release.

During Watson symposiums at the two universities, teams of students had an opportunity to test the computer system's question and answer capabilities. IBM officials believe that such an opportunity would inspire future innovators to consider the possibilities of this technology.

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