Skip to Main Content

BIDS Bets on Global Talent

June 17, 2024

This summer, four students will travel 7,000 miles from Kigali, Rwanda to Yale School of Medicine as part of a new international exchange program organized by the department of biomedical informatics and data science.

Biomedical Informatics and Data Science International Exchange for Students (BIDSIES) is a new academic exchange designed to foster innovation and collaboration across the globe, and mentor and support early career data scientists from under-represented communities. The program, directed by Annie Hartley, MD, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of biomedical informatics and data science, will support exchange student visits for the next three years. Each student will spend 80% of their time working on research with a faculty advisor at Yale School of Medicine, and 20% on a curriculum overseen by Hartley.

The BIDSIES curriculum will equip students with "data science diplomacy", providing training in scientific communication, leadership, and career strategies for academia, NGOs and industry. The program also builds a suite of open source pedagogical software that will help medical students critically evaluate artificial intelligence (AI) in clinical practice. The software will be integrated into an upcoming course at Yale School of Medicine, training students to detect and mitigate bias within a framework of AI ethics and regulations.

"It was only when I started teaching that I began to value the unique critical skillset that one develops when growing up and studying in a low resource setting," said Hartley, who grew up in South Africa and is trained as both a clinician and data scientist. "Through building pedagogical software, I hope the students will reflect on the unique value of their voice in the field of data science."

Four students attending Carnegie Mellon University Africa in Rwanda will form the inaugural cohort. One of these students is Scovia Achan, a masters student from Kampala, Uganda. She is interested in developing AI methods to address healthcare needs in Africa, and recently worked on a project that mapped cholera hotspots in developing countries.

“The project leveraged machine learning to get the best predictor variables and used k-means clustering to classify regions into low, medium and high-risk of getting cholera,” said Achan. At Yale, she hopes to deepen her understanding of data science further. “By learning from the distinguished faculty and engaging with fellow students, I aim to enhance my proficiency in conducting research and analyzing complex data sets.”

Like Achan, Atabonfack Lorier Bernes is excited to hone his skills on Yale’s campus. “Being surrounded by people who are among the best in their field, I hope to get the most exposure possible,” said Atabonfack, who is originally from Cameroon. He is interested in medical imaging and image processing, in addition to natural language processing (NLP), and has previously researched brain tumor segmentation using MRI images.

The students’ research interests are as diverse as their career goals. For software developer Peter Ahumuza, the BIDSIES program is a stepping stone to driving transformative change in the tech industry.

“My main areas of research and interest revolve around challenges and opportunities for smart city implementation in Africa,” said Ahumuza. Using process analysis, workflow optimization and software development, he hopes to use AI to improve productivity and competition. “At Yale, l’ll be involved in developing a pedagogical tool designed to empower medical professionals in leveraging AI for enhanced patient care. With Hartley's guidance, Ahumuza will be developing a web-based platform designed to make trainee doctors recognize when large language models make potentially dangerous errors, called "hallucinations".

Wendy Essuman, a graduate of African Leadership University, is interested in mobilizing technology to improve educational outcomes. She is currently working on a research project titled "Transforming Math Olympiad in Africa through Automated Solutions". The project will use AI to enhance students' online learning experiences in mathematics.

“I'm thrilled to be joining Yale this summer as part of the Africa exchange program,” said Essuman. “I look forward to building on my interest in teaching, and learning from the brilliant minds in the Yale community.”

Hartley hopes the program will also facilitate cross-cultural exchange at Yale and in the field of biomedical data science, and offer further context to the work that the students do.

Achan is looking forward to visiting the museums and art galleries around Yale’s campus and in New Haven. “I think exploring these cultural places will be a captivating experience, offering insights into the rich heritage and artistic legacy of New Haven.”

“I'm excited to explore New Haven's diverse food scene and picturesque scenery during my visit,” said Ahumuza. “From cozy cafes to international eateries, I look forward to indulging in new flavors.”

“I can’t wait to visit Payne Whitney Gym,” added Atabonfack, a keen athlete.

Each student is supported with a stipend and housing from July to September, 2024. Faculty interested in mentoring specific students should contact Annie Hartley for further information.

Submitted by Akio Tamura-Ho on May 14, 2024