WORCESTER, Mass. - Worcester Polytechnic Institute will start its new Global Health Masters program this fall.

"If we can improve how we do health care, how we deliver health care, how we form the kinds of health care systems in different parts of the world, everybody will benefit," said Mimi Sheller, Dean of Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Global School.

What You Need To Know

  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute will start its new Global Health Masters program this fall.

  • The program will focus on ways to create more equity and access in health care with the use of modern technology

  • The masters program is an extension of the school's current minor in the subject

  • Technology, including artificial intelligence, is to be included in the teachings.

The COVID-19 pandemic shined an unsightly light on issues within health care across the world. Among those issues was equality, especially when it came to distribution of the vaccine.

"At a time where in the U.S. and parts of Europe, we were moving on to the second dose, other parts of the world in Africa and Latin America were still trying to get the first dose,"  said Tsitsi Masvawure, a medical anthropologist and assistant professor in WPI's Department of Integrative & Global Studies. 

Inequities like this are what scientists at WPI are looking to address as part of the new program. Their goal is to train the next generation on how to best use technology to make health care more equitable and accessible.

"Artificial intelligence can help scan those databases and those large knowledge bases of research on different kinds of properties of natural substances," Sheller said.

In 2021, the World Health Organization said there were roughly 4.5 billion people who were not fully covered by essential health services, which is roughly half of the world's population.

Professor Karen Oates said communities around the world are having problems accessing clean water, soil and food for proper nutrition, and technology like artificial intelligence can play a role in solving those issues.

"Now we have the ability to see patterns and make connections that we've never been able to do before," Oates said.

WPI says this type of approach is already the present, as well as the future of health care, playing significant roles in areas like disease detection and drug discovery. They also point to the use of 3D printing and telemedicine as advancements for future patients.

Experts say the time for a program like this is now.

"We've seen this rampant increase in pandemics, right? First it was COVID, it was Ebola, it was Zika," Masvawure said. "So, pandemics sort of are the realm we're existing in globally. And then immense technical ability. So, this is like perfect timing."