Candice Adams-Mitchell awarded NIH fellowship designed to improve diversity in AI research

By Anne Riker Garlington
Dr. Candice Adams-Mitchell
Dr. Candice Adams-Mitchell

Candice J. Adams-Mitchell, SLP.D., CCC-SLP, a clinical assistant professor and director of undergraduate studies at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions department of speech, language, and hearing sciences, has been awarded a research fellowship from the National Institutes of Health’s Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Consortium to Advance Health Equity and Researcher Diversity program, or AIM-AHEAD.

The AIM-AHEAD program was created to enhance the participation and representation of researchers and communities currently underrepresented in the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning models, and to improve the capabilities of the technology, beginning with electronic health records and extending to other diverse data in order to address health disparities and inequities.

In 2022, Adams-Mitchell was awarded the National Institutes of Health AIM-AHEAD leadership fellowship, which offered mentored didactic and experiential educational activities to help participants gain leadership skills for championing the use of AI and machine learning in addressing health disparities.

“The knowledge and experiences I gained during the leadership fellowship provided the basis for being awarded the research fellowship,” Adams-Mitchell said.

She credits the support and encouragement she received from PHHP college and departmental leadership with giving her the necessary confidence to take advantage of  opportunities that can advance her research and help the populations she aims to serve.

“Serving as an equity advisor on the Health Science Center’s AI steering committee opened the door for me to hear about artificial intelligence and the underrepresentation in the field,” Adams-Mitchell said. “Prior to serving on that committee, I didn’t have any knowledge about AI and its potential impact on health disparities. My advice is if you’re offered an unique opportunity, you should take it because you never know where it’s going to lead.”

Mattia Prosperi, Ph.D., a UF professor of epidemiology and PHHP’s associate dean for artificial intelligence and innovation, will serve as Adams-Mitchell’s institutional mentor for the AIM-AHEAD research fellowship. She will also receive additional support from faculty in UF’s department of health outcomes and biomedical informatics.

Adams-Mitchell’s goal is to become an independent health disparities researcher with expertise in using AI technologies and precision health models to examine the intersection of pain and neurological health outcomes in sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease is an inherited red blood cell disorder that affects more than 100,000 people in the United States, most of whom have African ancestry.

“Collecting patient data within this population can be difficult,” Adams-Mitchell said. “When you have a population of people who don’t trust you and they don’t trust what you’re going to do with their data and their information, then you don’t have access to that data,” she said.

“There are gaps in the literature regarding sickle cell disease, especially in terms of speech-language, cognition, and swallowing,” she said.

Through her work, Adams-Mitchell hopes to advance scientific understanding of sickle cell disease and expand the clinical focus to quality-of-life issues that patients experience including pain.

“People don’t really think about how sickle cell disease affects individuals throughout their lifespan, including the impact on cognition, language, and swallowing,” she said. “I want to be the researcher who ties in the communication model with a human pain model, who brings it all together from a speech-language pathology perspective.”