X-ray picture on a computer screen

Teaming up to solve healthcare challenges

​Research on the border between technology and health is becoming increasingly important. Chalmers and Sahlgrenska Academy have now started a new collaboration, where researchers will work in pairs to solve healthcare challenges.
As our population grows and we live longer, and previously fatal diseases can be cured or become chronic, the healthcare sector faces major challenges. New technology can support and provide solutions, and technology focusing on health is also rapidly developing. At the same time, collaboration between healthcare and engineering is prioritised. Chalmers University of Technology currently has a number of collaborations, in both research and education, with Sahlgrenska University Hospital and Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg.

Working in pairs

The recently started Gothenburg Research School of Health Engineering is a new way of tackling healthcare challenges. Doctoral students from Sahlgrenska Academy and Chalmers will work in pairs, one participant from each university. Together, they will solve problems identified by healthcare professionals. The initiative is partly funded by Region Västra Götaland.
“We are very happy to now expand our collaboration through student pairs, which enables doctoral students in the fields of medicine and technology to work together with important research topics. At Chalmers, we would like to develop technology that will help the healthcare sector to meet future challenges, and we also see that close collaborations with both Sahlgrenska University Hospital and Sahlgrenska Academy strengthen our competences and make us an even more attractive choice for researchers and students”, says Stefan Bengtsson, Chalmers’ President.
The universities are now, together, educating a new type of researcher and expert with knowledge in the areas of health, medicine and technology, says Agneta Holmäng, Dean of Sahlgrenska Academy.
”This makes it possible to increase interdisciplinary collaborations in many different research areas, which in turn increases the chances of addressing healthcare challenges and specific topics where technical competence is becoming increasingly important.”

First: improved image analysis

Malin Barman, researcher at the department of Biology and Biological Engineering, is Chalmers’ coordinator
for the so-called research school. She is also part of a pair constellation; her counterpart Justin Schneiderman, who is also a researcher and coordinator, works at Sahlgrenska Academy.
“Many of the doctoral students at Sahlgrenska work as physicians part-time, and researchers part-time. At Chalmers, our doctoral students do full-time research”, says Malin Barman.
“The first projects are in the medtech field, focusing on improved image analysis. With the help of AI, new programmes for image analysis is developed, and this makes it possible to identify signs of, for example, incipient cardiovascular disease. Then, the idea is to expand and develop the research school to include, for example, biotechnology and data analysis, and also to apply AI in more areas. There are clearly many research topics that would benefit from close collaboration.”

The overall goal of the research school is to increase collaboration and points of contact. But the initiative is also about shaping a broader research competence; individuals at the intersection of health and technology,
who can understand and “talk to” both disciplines. To achieve this, each doctoral student has supervisors at both universities, and they will give lectures to each other, thereby sharing their skills. They also take a course together; a seminar series covering cross-border topics such as ethics, innovation, utilisation and AI.
“The seminar series is also open to other doctoral students in the field of health”, says Malin Barman.
A clear purpose of the seminar series is to provide time and opportunity for networking between researchers from different disciplines. The students will work in groups, but also get the chance to share experiences and skills in more unofficial contexts, such as over a lunch or around the coffee table.
“We now hope for a big interest, from both Chalmers and Sahlgrenska Academy!”

Research made useful

There are many benefits of participating in the research school, according to Malin Barman. Chalmers’ doctoral students will gain increased knowledge about research and innovation – and challenges – within the hospital. They will also learn more about the organisation and structure of healthcare, and gain new medical knowledge. For Chalmers as a university, the initiative will be a way to get additional input from the healthcare sector, making it easier for researchers to focus on the right issues and use their expertise in a way that will benefit healthcare and society.
“We will, without a doubt, strengthen our competence in the area of health. In addition, we get a clear link to utilisation of our research; we will make technical solutions that can be implemented more quickly in healthcare”, Malin Barman concludes.

About the seminar series within Gothenburg Research School of Health Engineering
The seminar series in the field of health and technology will start in February 2021. The aim is to give doctoral students an in-depth study in areas that connect health and technology, such as innovation, utilisation, ethics and AI. The participants get three higher education points, and the plan is to give the series continuously each year.
The seminar series include 10+ seminars, approximately one each month, held by various both external and internal lecturers with expert knowledge in each area.

The goal is that the students after completing the course should: 
• Have gained a broader perspective and understanding of how one’s own research can be utilised and disseminated.  
• Gain a greater understanding of how AI and medtech solutions can be helpful in healthcare.  
• Be able to identify and discuss ethical aspects of their research.  
• Know how to go about translating results from the research project into utilisation.  
• Demonstrate and discuss their research project with key players and stakeholders from a utilisation and innovation perspective.
The seminar series is obligatory for doctoral students at the Gothenburg Research School of Health Engineering, but also open to other doctoral students working in the field of technology and health, at Chalmers and Sahlgrenska Academy. For questions, please get in touch with Malin Barman.

Three questions for Roman Naeem, Chalmers' doctoral students at Gothenburg Research School of Health Engineering:

What is your work about?

"These days, most Artificial Intelligence systems utilise Deep Learning methods because of their recent advancements showing significant performance gains over traditional methods. Deep learning models are usually trained in a way called Supervised Learning, in which a large amount of data with sufficient variation is required to learn useful data features, and give appropriate outputs that could be used by medical
professionals. However, in medical imaging, such as MRI, CT scans and ultrasounds, labeling a large amount of data can be very time consuming and quite expensive, as we need highly-qualified individuals like doctors to label the data. A potential way of tackling this hurdle is utilising Semi-supervised Learning (SSL), which is the main subject of my work.

As the name suggests, in SSL we only partly use supervised learning using the limited data that we have, and focus more on using the much more unlabeled data available to train the models. Specifically, I am working on developing algorithms that utilise SSL for analysing a dataset of CT examinations of around 30,000 individuals, collected in a population study by a few Swedish hospitals. Through this analysis, we hope to find and locate atherosclerosis in coronary arteries, which will help us in improving risk predictions for future myocardial infarction, or heart attack in layman’s terms."

What part/-s of your work is the most challenging?

"Computer vision, like SSL, has seen a major rise in popularity in the recent years, so a lot of research is being done in the field. I think the most challenging aspect of my work is keeping track of and staying updated with all the new research that is being published, and taking inspiration and incorporating ideas in the new research with my own work to improve it."

What are the benefits (for you) in being a part of the Gothenburg Research School of Health Engineering?

"There are quite a few benefits! But the main benefit would be being a part of a multidisciplinary group, which makes it easier to learn more about the characteristics and peculiarities of the downstream tasks – like automatic detection of features in a medical exam, that could lead to benefits like early diagnosis and preventive measures – for which my work will be used. My colleagues, coordinators and supervisors at Gothenburg Research School of Health Engineering are also a great asset in helping me further in my research."

Text: Mia Malmstedt, Elin Lindström​
Photo, Malin Barman: Chalmers
Photo, Justin Schneiderman: Malin Arnesson
Photo, Roman Naeem: Siri Norelius
Photo, x-ray: Pixabay

Page manager Published: Tue 16 Feb 2021.