Exploring AI’s Impact on Healthcare with Define Ventures Advisor Jia Li

In the quickly evolving landscape of AI, there are few people that possess the depth of experience and insight as our advisor Jia Li.

Her career journey includes pivotal roles at big tech companies including Google, where she was the head of R&D at Google Cloud AI. Her team developed the full stack of AI products on Google Cloud to power solutions for diverse industries, including healthcare. Prior to Google she served as the head of research at Snap, where her team developed core CV/AI technology to power products.

She’s also served several roles at Stanford University including Adjunct Professor and she founded Generative AI and Healthcare Nonprofit Organization HealthUnity Corporation. Now as advisor to Define Ventures, Jia remains committed to nurturing the next generation of AI talent and driving positive change in healthcare through interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation.

Now as advisor to Define Ventures, Jia remains committed to nurturing the next generation of AI talent and driving positive change in healthcare through interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. We recently sat down with her to learn more about what she believes the future of AI holds for healthcare, as well as valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs in the field.

Can you tell us about your journey into the field of AI research and what inspired you to pursue this career path?

Originally, I aspired to be a doctor, but fate had other plans for me when an alternative option to join the AI program presented itself. It wasn’t a popular choice to make at the time, but I was soon fascinated by the immense potential of AI to make a meaningful impact.

How did your journey lead you to working in big tech? When did it start intersecting with healthcare?

I was really drawn to working in the tech industry because of the fast pace, hyper growth, and the focus on being super innovative. That was a really fun journey. After spending a few years at Snap as their head of AI and research, my journey took an exciting turn when Google reached out. They provided me with an opportunity to bring my expertise to traditional industries that were lacking in AI innovation and talent, like healthcare, education, agriculture, and retail. That experience resonated with me deeply in my desire to drive impactful change.

Back when I was completing my master degree, one of my projects was to do image segmentation for Brain MRIs. This was before deep learning and using very “old fashioned” AI technology. It was really interesting to pair that experience with my time at Google where I was connecting with C-suite leaders in healthcare, understanding their challenges, and how AI can help solve those challenges. Such experiences both deepened my involvement and understanding of healthcare’s complexities.

How do you see AI evolving in the next decade, both in terms of technological advancements and its impact on healthcare?

My career has been marked by so many pivotal moments, from early experiences at Yahoo leveraging large-scale data for image analysis to leading the full stack of AI applications at Google. Yet I see the current era, the “Gen AI’’ era, as particularly transformative. This wave is poised to revolutionize human AI interaction and fundamentally reshape industries, especially healthcare. Its focus on human-like interaction and problem solving holds immense promise — from enhancing patient experiences, to streamlining administrative workflows, to personalized medicine and improved diagnostics. There are so many inefficiencies, repetitive efforts, and opportunities to connect the dots in healthcare. I’m very optimistic and excited to see how much more it will be impacting every aspect of our life, including in healthcare.

For founders building AI healthcare companies, what advice would you offer them?

It’s important to continue advancing AI while simultaneously understanding human interactions with the technology. This data didn’t exist in the past, and learning from human behavior can help you better align your expectations of how people will use your product or service. We’re still at the beginning stages of this and so many of the hard problems are yet to be solved. This is especially critical in healthcare and will be challenging to do without having domain expertise. That’s how you’ll be able to ensure you’re directly addressing the problem you’re looking to solve in healthcare.

How should founders think about building high-quality and diverse datasets?

Quality of data is extremely important. Domain specific data, especially in a vertical like healthcare is very valuable. Data is representing the problem you’re solving in AI. Sometimes entrepreneurs don’t pay enough attention to this and spend way too much time chasing a bigger model or training a generic purpose model. That will only lead you to spending a lot on computation and you won’t get as good of return or accuracy.

If you could change one misconception people have about AI in healthcare, what would it be and why?

There is often a huge gap between fancy demos and the real-world products. Now the barrier to entry is much lower, and everybody has the opportunity to make a fancy demo. But that’s only 5% of the work. The other 95% is the last-mile product development, which determines the true value and usability in healthcare. There’s a lot of excitement in AI right now but there are ways we can avoid the hype.

Can you tell us more about your role at Define Ventures and why you chose to advise our partner companies?

I really hope that AI can make a positive impact on healthcare, and based on my journey I know it requires interdisciplinary expertise to drive such positive change. That’s why I decided to start working with Define and its partner companies because they bring together the best in digital health, from a business, operations, and investor perspective. I’ve had such a positive experience collaborating with the team and their founders. I’m hopeful that in such a transformative time for AI, we can continue bringing our expertise together to help more companies become successful.

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