Published 26 October 2023 by Polat Goktas

Integrating Artificial Intelligence into Healthcare: Ethical Frontiers

Polat delivered a seminar on AI insights in the field of nutrition. All photos/credits: in courtesy of Polat Goktas

The next Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in summer 2024 will be dedicated to Physics. Lindau Alumnus Polat Goktas, currently holding a Marie-Curie Research Fellow at the School of Computer Science and Ireland’s Centre for Applied Research Centre (CeADAR), participated in the Physics Meeting 2016. Learn more about his experiences in Lindau and his professional odyssey, taking him from Ankara to the corridors of Harvard Medical School, and eventually leading him to the historic beauty of Dublin — focusing on various fields of artificial intelligence. And, do not miss his advice for future Young Scientists!

My journey as a scientist began with a foundational fascination for technology, driven by a ceaseless curiosity about the world around me. As I proceeded with my education at Bilkent University in Ankara, I opted to concentrate on Electrical and Electronics Engineering, along with other fields, for my MSc and PhD studies. This choice allowed me to expand my understanding of technology and delve into multidisciplinary studies.

Group Picture
Polat, along with fellow Fulbright scholars, attended at the Fulbright Global Health Innovation Seminar in Atlanta, Georgia, US.

My time as a Fulbright scholar conducting PhD research at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School was transformative. I was deeply influenced by the groundbreaking work being done in the healthcare sector and began to see the profound impact that artificial intelligence (AI) could have on healthcare. This experience significantly broadened my perspective on the symbiotic relationship between research and real-world challenges. It also set the stage for further international collaboration and laid the foundation for securing funding opportunities that allowed me to deepen my focus on applied AI. After my Fulbright journey, I continued my research activities in Dublin, Ireland. There, I secured funding through Enterprise Ireland and the European Union’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Career-FIT PLUS programme, a highly competitive initiative for Horizon 2020 MSCA Individual Fellowships. My project represents a strategic partnership involving University College Dublin’s School of Computer Science & CeADAR, as well as a bio-technology company. This work has allowed me to extend the application of AI algorithms into critical areas of healthcare, specifically in the advancement of stem cell manufacturing processes. The potential long-term impact of this research could revolutionise the treatment of various conditions, offering new avenues to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.

Managing a Set of Ethical Dilemmas

Navigating the ethical dimensions associated with the integration of AI into healthcare is my biggest challenge. While AI algorithms have shown incredible promise in revolutionising areas like stem cell manufacturing and diagnostics, these advancements come with their own set of ethical dilemmas:

  • Data Security: As healthcare increasingly relies on data, it is crucial to protect sensitive patient information from unauthorised access or misuse.
  • Algorithmic Bias: Constant attention is needed in both data collection and algorithm design to prevent AI from introducing or perpetuating healthcare disparities.
  • Human Judgment: As AI automates more tasks, it is crucial to maintain human expertise in diagnosing and treating patients.
  • Accountability: Questions about who is responsible for mistakes — whether it is the AI developers or healthcare providers — need to be clearly addressed.
  • Regulatory Framework: A strong ethical and legal framework is necessary to manage challenges and ensure that AI in healthcare is both effective and ethical.
Polat during an interview
Polat loves contributing to science and offering advice to young researchers through the interview with the Turkish Nobel Community.

While my work aims to push the boundaries of what AI can achieve in healthcare, it also focuses heavily on understanding and addressing these complex ethical considerations. This dual focus ensures that the incredible capabilities of AI are used in a manner that is responsible, ethical, and ultimately beneficial for all of humanity. I always keep the most important questions regarding the use of AI in mind: How can we keep patient data safe? How do we maintain human decision-making in an AI-driven world? And what ethical guidelines should we follow for AI in healthcare? Despite these challenges, I believe that if we work together and prioritise human well-being, the future of AI in healthcare is promising.

A Catalyst for Scientific Endeavours

The participation in the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting deepened my passion for research and fortified my commitment to contribute meaningfully to the global scientific community. The event provided not just knowledge but also a broader vision for what science can achieve when minds from different backgrounds and disciplines come together. As one of the Young Scientists nominated to attend this prestigious event, I found myself surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the world, both past and present. The focus of that year’s meeting was Physics, and it was an incredible honour to delve into this field with such accomplished experts.

The networking and intellectual exchange that the Lindau Meeting afforded me was not just limited to the event itself. The relationships and insights I gained there have had a long-lasting impact, influencing the direction of my work and providing avenues for future collaborations. It was there that I had the chance to meet a postdoctoral research fellow from Harvard Medical School, which later led to my opportunity to become a Fulbright researcher at Harvard. Being nominated to represent Turkey at this prestigious gathering also carried its own significance, offering me a unique platform to engage with the global scientific community. In many ways, the Lindau Meeting served as a catalyst, opening doors to high-caliber institutions and influential connections that have proven invaluable in shaping my career path. I am still in contact with some of the other participants from the Lindau Meeting. In fact, my involvement with the Lindau community has extended beyond just being an alumnus. I have had the honour of serving as a reviewer, selecting high-impact papers for the Next-Generation Science sessions in subsequent Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. This role has allowed me to stay connected with emerging talent in the scientific community and also to re-encounter fellow Lindau Alumni.

Polat Goktas standing beside his poster during a conference
Polat attended the 22nd International Cancer Imaging Society Meeting (ICIS 2023), UK.

Additionally, I often cross paths with other Lindau Alumni during various scientific events and conferences. We share updates on our research endeavours, discuss potential collaborations, and catch up on both professional and personal fronts. Being active in the Lindau Alumni Network also provides a structured way for me to maintain these valuable relationships. It is a community hat continues to offer intellectual support, opportunities for collaboration, and a sense of shared purpose in the pursuit of scientific inquiry.

With my esteemed position as a Lindau Alumnus, coupled with my advisory roles guiding young generations on the Turkish Nobel Community’s board and within the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society – Student Mentoring Program (IEEE EMBS SMP), my advice for future Young Scientists attending the Lindau Meeting is as follows:

  • Be Open and Inquisitive, Network Actively: Beyond the formal sessions, take the initiative to engage with peers and experienced scientists alike. During my attendance, I made a valuable connection with a fellow postdoc from Harvard, which later shaped a significant phase of my academic journey.
  • Seek Mentorship: With my experience in mentoring both high school and undergraduate students, I have realised the immense value of guidance.
  • Engage Beyond the Meeting: The Lindau Meeting is just the beginning.
  • Remember Your Why: Let that drive your questions, interactions, and research aspirations in your research area. My exploration of AI’s potential in healthcare stems from a deep-seated desire to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Identify your driving force — your ‘why’ — and let it be your compass.
  • Contribute Back: As you advance in your career, always look for ways to give back to the community. Whether it is through mentorship, teaching, or contributing to projects, playing an active role in nurturing the next generation is invaluable.
  • Stay Connected: Once the meeting concludes, ensure you maintain the connections you have made. Engage with the Lindau Alumni society and actively participate in post-meeting seminars, webinars, and events.

I hope the upcoming meeting will have an inspiring impact on many careers of the Young Scientists attending in 2024 – and I am looking forward to welcoming you to the community of Lindau Alumni.

Polat Goktas

Polat Goktas is a distinguished researcher with expertise spanning electrical and electronics, computer engineering, and life-sciences. He completed his PhD at Bilkent University and further enriched his academic journey as a Fulbright Fellow at Harvard Medical School. Currently positioned as a Marie Curie Research Fellow at UCD School of Computer Science and Ireland's Centre for Applied Artificial Intelligence (CeADAR), University College Dublin, Dublin/Ireland, he passionately explores the realms of artificial intelligence (AI). His diverse research encompasses human-computer interaction, machine learning, and explainable AI in real-world contexts. Recognised as the 2016 Lindau Alumnus, his accolades include the IEEE AP-S Doctoral Research Grant awarded to the top global PhD student, the Marie-Curie Individual Fellowship, and the METU Serhat Ozyar Young Scientist of the Year Award, and among others.