Big Data, AI make personalized orthopedics care possible
Whether it is tendinitis in the elbow after a tennis match or a torn rotator cuff following a baseball injury, patients need quality orthopedic care. At Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, surgeons and scientists are incorporating big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to personalize that specialty care.
“Personalized medicine is a nice catchphrase, but how do we apply that practice to patient care?” asks Dr. Joshua D. Harris, associate program director of the orthopedic surgery residency program in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Houston Methodist. “We can potentially harness data to predict outcomes for common surgeries like knee or hip replacement, which will allow patients to return to their beloved activities more quickly.”
Employing personalized medicine enables surgeons to better anticipate problems before they emerge. Thus, a care team can tailor conditioning and recovery plans based on patients’ unique health histories and body dynamics. To this end, prominent friends of Houston Methodist wanted to show their support.
In 2022, Jim and Carole Walter Looke generously established two endowed positions: the C. James and Carole Walter Looke Chair in Orthopedic Spine Surgery and the C. James and Carole Walter Looke Presidential Distinguished Centennial Chair in Orthopedics. The latter received a match from the Walter Centennial Chair Challenge and was bestowed upon Dr. Kevin E. Varner, chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. The Lookes also created an orthopedic resident and fellow research awards fund that honors Carole’s brother, Joseph C. “Rusty” Walter III, and supports next-generation talent.
Six months later, Bobbie E. Nau and John L. Nau III made a philanthropic commitment to establish the Bobbie Nau and John L. Nau III Distinguished Chair in Joint Preservation. The philanthropic impact of their gift was elevated thanks to a match from an anonymous benefactor.
Dr. Harris says these gifts will bolster advances in care. “Merging big data and AI into orthopedics takes a lot of computing power plus smart individuals to run the algorithms,” he says. “Philanthropy helps take it to the next level.”