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Young Vietnamese bring AI to local medical practices

Friday, January 10, 2020, 16:26 GMT+7
Young Vietnamese bring AI to local medical practices
Hoang Trung Hieu (left) and Ton That Vinh pursue applied artificial intelligence in medical practices. Photo: Q.L. / Tuoi Tre

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming a hot topic for young Vietnamese academics, but two in particular are hoping their research can aid doctors in their ability to diagnose and treat diseases.  

Scientific research is a common aspect of education for Vietnamese under- and post-graduates, particularly for those involved in healthcare and medicine.

Among those whose research is making waves in the field are Ton That Vinh and Hoang Trung Hieu, two recent graduates of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Science (HCMUS) who are hoping their proposals to apply AI in medical situations can change the way local doctors approach healthcare.

Vinh’s postgraduate background includes an internship in pathology imaging informatics at the University of Illinois in the U.S.

In particular, Vinh was working on pathology imaging informatics during his internship at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign under the instruction of Professor Do Ngoc Minh.

During his internship, he proposed an idea to use AI for analyzing cell imagery as well as monitoring drug effects and regulating drug use in cancer treatment.

His work was ranked 11 out of 40 proposals at MICCAI 2018, an international convention on computer-assisted medical practices.

His research was also published alongside those of master's and PhD degree holders in the IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging Journal when he was just in his third year as an undergraduate.

Hieu, meanwhile, has earned a reputation for his research computer-assisted classification during colonoscopies – techniques meant to assist doctors in screening and detecting common diseases as well as anatomical sites using endoscopic images.

His research earned him first prize at MediaEval 2018, a benchmarking initiative dedicated to developing and evaluating new technologies that deal with human and social aspects of multimedia.

Specifically, Hieu’s work argued that endoscopy imaging can be overwhelming, meaning proper diagnoses often require painstaking analysis or result in ineffective image selection.

“My research results should aid doctors and analysts in filtering images and I have added extra algorithms for the job,” he said.

Ton That Vinh (right) presents a poster at a U.S. computer science conference. Photo: M.Tr. / Tuoi Tre

Ton That Vinh (right) explains information on a poster at a U.S. computer science conference. Photo: M.Tr. / Tuoi Tre

Potential

According to Associate Professor Dr. Tran Minh Triet, from HCMUS, Vinh and Hieu’s research interests carry a great amount of potential to aid in medical diagnosis and treatment.

Vinh’s latest paper, which he presented at a conference in the U.S. last June, focuses on cell detection in medical imaging.

Meanwhile, Hieu’s research has focused on the creation of an endoscopic capsule that can run along a patient’s intestinal tract, enabling doctors to read live screening results and send automatic reports on abnormalities through effective filtering, relieving them from the tedious and nearly impossible 8-9 hours of sorting through imaging results.

Despite a lack of resources and facilities, both Vinh and Hieu have managed to move closer and closer to turning their medical AI dreams into reality.

“Applied AI is a long story. It’s not just the budget and resources. There are also other problems,” Hieu said.

“One of the keys is working hand in hand with those in the medical field.”

A cradle of young talent

The IT department at HCMUS is considered a cradle for Vietnam’s new generation of high-flying tech talents.

The university’s AILab and SELab are devoted to research and development in AI and software engineering, respectively, and have produced great dozens of young academics who have won prestigious awards at various science fairs and competitions.

Hieu and Vinh are two prime examples of such excellence.

The ‘Ho Chi Minh City’s Best Young Citizen’ title was bestowed upon Vinh in 2018, and upon Hieu the year after.

Vinh graduated with the highest honors in 2019, while Hieu was the runner-up.

Of course, both could not have done it without their beloved mentor, Dr. Triet.

“He is always open to discussion so we have total freedom to voice our opinions, Vinh said.

"Such empathy is our motivation to keep on with our career path.”

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