issue Spring 2023

RFU/DePaul Alliance Moves Into Second Decade with AI Initiative

By Margaret Smith
Dr. Kaplan addresses the alliance gathering at DePaul University in fall 2022.
Photo by Michael R. Schmidt

The decade-long partnership between RFU and DePaul University expanded in 2022 to include a new focus on artificial intelligence. This builds on the foundation of the Alliance for Health Sciences, established in 2012, with the goal of creating wider opportunities for students interested in pursuing healthcare professions and with the goal of collaborating on biomedical discovery. 

The Artificial Intelligence in Biomedical Discovery and Health Care grant program — which launched this year — was selected as the next area of focus for the alliance after significant interest was shown from groups at both institutions.

Amiel Rosenkranz, PhD, MS, director of RFU’s Brain Science Institute, talks with a DePaul colleague.

The grant program requires a collective monetary commitment of $200,000 each year for three years, which is estimated to be awarded to and divided among three or four projects per year — depending on their requirements. This first cohort produced eight letters of interest, which the alliance uses to gauge the nature of the grant applications that will be subsequently submitted — a number that Ronald S. Kaplan, PhD, executive vice president for research, assumes will grow with time. The projects range from using AI to score symptoms of neurologic disorders to modeling an intervention to reduce falls by older adults.

“It’s kind of exciting that we really are fusing these two different areas of specialty between the two institutions (and) focusing on important problems,” Dr. Kaplan concluded. “This is an ideal situation. And the hope is that some of these projects will obtain long-term funding from federal grant agencies that will result in high-profile publications that substantively advance the scientific ball. Some outstanding new science is going to emerge from this.”

The overall partnership takes form through the Alliance for Health Sciences program, which intervenes early on in a DePaul student’s degree pursuit to set them on a streamlined path to a highly-competitive master’s or doctoral program at RFU. 

Dr. Parsley, center, at the 2022 meeting.

“The strategic educational partnership with DePaul was originally created to promote and enhance health education at both RFU and at DePaul. It’s been a really long-standing, strong partnership,” said Provost Nancy Parsley, DPM, MHPE.

DePaul Provost Salma Ghanem, PhD, said the program will provide faculty resources to tackle health projects that Chicago needs.

“The potential dividends from collaborative research where these disciplines intersect are enormous,” Dr. Ghanem said. “Together, our institutions can pursue and address a greater breadth of research questions than either of us could alone.”

Moreover, the program was established on three primary concepts: an understanding of mutual commitment to education in the science and health fields; grounding the program in RFU’s “strong reputation for excellence” in graduate, interprofessional health education; and a joint commitment to providing pathways into medicine and health professions and contributing to research in those fields. The term “mutually beneficial,” Dr. Parsley reiterated, is at the core of all the program’s navigation.