The ap­proach helps to pro­vide a quan­ti­ta­tive sum­mary of TCM doc­tors’ know-how.”

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - China -

Nevin Zhang Lian­wen,

After com­plet­ing his doc­tor­ate in ap­plied math at BNU in 1988, Zhang re­turned to North Amer­ica in 1990 — this time to Canada to at­tend the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia, where he would earn a se­cond PhD in com­puter sci­ence. He set­tled in Hong Kong in 1994 and de­vel­oped his own model of anal­y­sis for tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine, based on Shafer’s the­ory, which schol­ars at uni­ver­si­ties and TCM hos­pi­tals have been us­ing for fur­ther re­search.

The ma­jor con­sid­er­a­tions for chang­ing his re­search field to com­puter sci­ence, Zhang said, were bet­ter ca­reer and earn­ings prospects. But there was also al­ways a voice in his mind re­mind­ing him to do some­thing that could ben­e­fit his coun­try, in­clud­ing his boy­hood home, a re­mote vil­lage in Nan­chong, in south­west­ern China’s Sichuan prov­ince.

Some peo­ple are skep­ti­cal about TCM treat­ments, think­ing that a doc­tor’s di­ag­no­sis is sub­jec­tive, rather than be­ing based on sci­ence. But hav­ing been born and raised in a vil­lage with­out high-end hos­pi­tals, Zhang’s par­ents usu­ally took him to TCM clin­ics when he was ill as a child.

“I saw TCM doc­tors in my vil­lage start to prac­tice medicine after only two years’ train­ing,” Zhang said. “But they were good. I thought they should be rec­og­nized.”

Zhang ap­plied AI tech­nol­ogy to TCM in the early 2000s. He de­vel­oped a data-driven ap­proach, termed “la­tent tree anal­y­sis”, which he hopes will un­ravel the clas­si­fi­ca­tion prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with TCM.

He aims to val­i­date TCM the­o­ries with data sets and a sci­en­tific ap­proach in or­der to pro­vide stan­dard­ized re­sults for the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of TCM symp­toms, lead­ing to more valid and ef­fi­cient treat­ments.

“The ap­proach helps to pro­vide a quan­ti­ta­tive sum­mary of TCM doc­tors’ know-how by jus­ti­fy­ing the ex­ist­ing med­i­cal records sta­tis­ti­cally,” he said.

For Zhang, co­op­er­at­ing with med­i­cal uni­ver­si­ties on the main­land is sig­nif­i­cant, as the data are huge and valu­able.

He said he ex­pects the ap­pli­ca­tion of AI will not be lim­ited to TCM the­o­ret­i­cal stud­ies, and will ex­tend to clin­i­cal ex­per­i­ments and ob­jec­tive ev­i­dence.

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