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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Several IT-Focused NIH’ers Have Working Lunch with Cerf

Seven men and one woman stand shoulder to shoulder, smiling into camera

Before taking the stage in Masur Auditorium, Dr. Vinton Cerf (fourth from l) had a working lunch with NIH’ers (from l) Ivor D’Souza, acting director of the Center for Information Technology; Dr. Michael Chiang, director of the National Eye Institute; Dr. Susan Gregurick, NIH associate director for data science and director of the Office of Data Science Strategy; Dr. Ron Summers, senior investigator in the Imaging Biomarkers and Computer-Aided Diagnosis Laboratory at the Clinical Center; Dr. Yang Fann, director of clinical informatics at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Dr. Jon McKeeby, chief information officer at the Clinical Center and chief of CC’s department of clinical research informatics; and Dr. Steve Sherry, director, National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and NLM associate director for scientific data resources.

Photo: Diana Gomez

Before internet pioneer Dr. Vinton Cerf took the stage in Masur Auditorium, he met several IT-focused NIH leaders for a working lunch.

“We chatted about a variety of topics,” noted one attendee, Clinical Center Senior Investigator Dr. Ronald Summers. He briefly described a few subjects that came up at the meeting, including which “aspects of AI are more likely to be incorporated into health care delivery. [Cerf] thought AI image analytics were more likely than large language models to be incorporated first.” 

The small group also discussed when IP version 6 will completely replace version 4. “This is pretty technical, but he seemed to enjoy this topic and talked for quite a while about it,” Summers recalled. 

The cadre posed questions as well.

“How can academics—I include government scientists here—innovate in the AI space, given the need for resources far beyond their (and their institutions’) budgets?” Summers asked. “This has to do with the current situation where only the big companies can offer the very high salaries to attract AI talent and can purchase the huge amount of computing resources—e.g., [graphics processing units] GPUs—needed to train large language models and annotate huge datasets. [Cerf] offered to connect us with Google scientists to discuss this and also pitched Google’s cloud offerings.”

Time went by quickly and was well spent, as Cerf engaged the group with candor and shared personal stories.

“Vint has a witty sense of humor and we talked on a broad range of topics, from his early days of developing the internet and TCP/IP to pressing new problems such as adoption of IP6,” said NIH Associate Director for Data Science Dr. Susan Gregurick, who also directs the Office of Data Science Strategy. 

“We discussed AI, challenges and new opportunities, including the role of government and the opportunities of researchers and the private sector,” she recounted. “He told us about his trip to Saudi Arabia and the work he is doing with their national health care initiatives to make health care available to all citizens, including those who are remote. The Saudis have an amazing program in telemedicine where devices and sensors are placed in homes and…remote clinics, and citizens engage doctors via remote conferencing platforms, like Zoom, I imagined. The hour flew fast and the meeting was rewarding.” 

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