Generative AI also raises new learning opportunities, particularly in its ability to create and analyze sophisticated text. Educators have begun to help students understand how generative AI accesses information and creates compelling arguments, in a way that recalls early versions of evidence-based medicine. A priority for the Royal College will be to identify the ways in which competence will be transformed in the future. A core competence for future medical practice, for example, will be metacognition — the ability to analyze and critique patterns and biases in both human and AI-based problem solving and how they interact with each other. Another critical ability will be understanding the biases that can arise when computer algorithms are used to generate diagnostic hypotheses and probabilities.
The risk of artificial intelligence is hotly debated and there have been calls for moratoria.[ii] But, it is likely already too late to stop this evolution; most people carry with them a smart phone that is already replete with apps utilizing artificial intelligence. All search engines use AI, as do shopping and banking apps and those used to book flights and hotels. When we “talk” to Siri or Alexa or Google we are engaging in a relationship with an AI algorithm. Further, almost everyone I know has experimented with ChatGPT or a similar generative AI system, to do everything from writing a limerick to creating a scientific keynote address.
Join the discussion: Forum on Generative AI in October
The Royal College is responding to this technological evolution and its myriad of applications to medical education and practice. Having commissioned both a Task Force on Research in 2018 and another focusing on Artificial Intelligence in 2019, the Royal College has been focused on implementing the recommendations.
Among these are the establishment of a Research and Evaluation Advisory Committee (REAC) that will be chaired by Richard Reznick, MD, FRCSC and Past-President of the Royal College, and coordinated by our associate director, Research and Evaluation, Tanya Horsley, PhD, MBA.
The Research and Evaluation Department, in concert with the Data and Informatics Governance Committee of Council, is hosting a panel on AI to discuss
- emerging competencies,
- uses of technology to propel learning and assessment, and
- how the Royal College can help the medical profession prepare for the profound changes that AI will bring to education and practice.
The Forum on Generative AI will take place virtually on October 25, 2023, at 12:00 p.m. EDT. Dr. Horsley and I will be joined on the panel by Lorelei Anne Lingard, PhD, FRCPSC (Hon), professor and senior scientist at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, and Michael Caesar, MBA, PfMP, chief data & analytics officer at the University Health Network. Bertalan Meskó, MD, PhD, The Medical Futurist and director of The Medical Futurist Institute in Hungary, will give an address. Learn more and register for the event.
No matter where we practice — be it in a rural community or a large urban centre, solo or group practice, and in any of the 72 Royal College specialties and subspecialities — our teaching, research and clinical activity is being transformed by technology. Our Royal College will be there as a partner to help us adapt to this new reality.
Brian Hodges, MD, FRCPC, PhD
Brian Hodges is the 47th President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. He is the executive vice-president of education and chief medical officer at the University Health Network. A professor in the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine and at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, as well as a senior fellow at Massey College, Dr. Hodges is also a practising psychiatrist.
[i] Loh E. BMJ Leader 2023;0:1–4. doi:10.1136/leader-2023-000797
Mbakwe AB, Lourentzou I, Celi LA, et al. ChatGPT passing USMLE shines a spotlight on the flaws of medical education. PLOS Digit Health 2023;2:e0000205.
[ii] New York Times (2023), https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/01/technology/ai-google-chatbot-engineer-quits-hinton.html and Future of Life Institute (2023), https://futureoflife.org/open-letter/pause-giant-ai-experiments/.