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Ehsan Hoque named an ‘emerging leader’ by National Academy of Medicine

May 8, 2020
Ehsan Hoque in a suit and tie stands in front of Wegmans Hall on an overcast day.Ehsan Hoque, assistant professor of computer science and director of Rochester's Human-Computer Interaction Lab, is one of ten leaders selected to work with the National Academy of Medicine on “sparking transformative change to improve health care for all.” (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Ehsan Hoque, a University of Rochester expert in human-computer interaction, is one of 10 new emerging leaders selected by the National Academy of Medicine to collaborate with the organization on “sparking transformative change to improve health care for all.”

“As the world faces the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded of the importance of involving emerging leaders, who are poised to shape the future of health and medicine, in cross-disciplinary activities to tackle pressing challenges such as these,” says Victor Dzau, president of the academy.  “I am delighted to welcome these extraordinary individuals . . . into the National Academy of Medicine’s Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine program.”

Hoque, an assistant professor of computer science and the Asaro Biggar (’92) Family Fellow in Data Science, directs the Rochester Human-Computer Interaction (ROC HCI) Lab.

“I am very excited to be the odd one with a background in technology among a cohort of highly accomplished researchers and leaders in medicine, public health, policy and law,” Hoque says.

While serving as the interim director of the Goergen Institute of Data Science, Hoque helped establish the Morris K. Udall Center of Excellence in Parkinson’s Research at the University of Rochester, funded by $9.2 NIH grant. The center brings together researchers and multiple academic institutions including MIT and Johns Hopkins, to focus on the development of digital tools to enhance understanding of the disease, engage broad populations in research, and accelerate the development of treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

Hoque and his students are working on creating a video analytics tool that would allow anyone with Parkinson’s, from any part of the world, to perform neurological tests in front of a computer and receive standardized metrics corresponding to the disease progression.

Hoque has also been collaborating with Medical Center in improving end-of-life communication for final stage cancer patients. More than two-thirds of advanced cancer patients have an incorrect understanding of their diagnosis, leading to decisions – later regretted – to pursue aggressive and often toxic treatments that worsen the quality of life. In collaboration with Ronald Epstein, professor of family medicine, Hoque and his students are developing an emotionally aware ‘virtual patient’ for doctors to practice responding to patients’ emotions, checking patient understanding and avoiding lecturing.

Hoque joined the University in 2013 after completing his PhD at MIT. His PhD thesis introduced the idea of a computer being a conversation coach.  The possibility has become more mainstream with Microsoft releasing “Presenter Coach” in 2019 to be integrated into PowerPoint.

At Rochester he has continued to be a pioneer in developing AI that improves human ability while expanding his research to:

  • Develop the first AI-driven communication training system, ROC Speak, which has been validated to be effective in improving public speaking skills. ROC Speak is freely available on the web and has been used by more than 100,000 individuals.
  • Develop Live Interactive Social Skills Assistant (LISSA) in collaboration with Len Schubert, professor of computer science. LISSA has been validated in the context of autism in collaboration with late Tristam Smith, the Haggerty-Friedman Professor in Developmental/Behavioral Pediatric Research, and aging in collaboration with Kimberly Van Orden, associate professor of psychiatry.
  • Develop VowelShapes in collaboration with Katherine Ciesinski from the Eastman School of Music to assist singers in real time in correctly producing target vowels.

His previous awards include selection to MIT’s “35 Innovators under 35,” to Science News 10 Scientists to Watch, and to the inaugural class of the ACM Future of Computing Academy. He has also received a World Technology Award, an NSF CAREER award, and an Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (ECASE)—the highest honor bestowed by the Army Research Office (ARO) to outstanding scientists and engineers.

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Category: University News