Mockup of Fall/Winter 2022 Peddie Chronicle Cover

From the Peddie Chronicle.

Pelu Tran ’06 and Leon Bergen Ph.D. ’05

These Peddie alumni are using artificial intelligence to save lives

Pelu Tran '06 and Leon Bergen Ph.D. '05

From left: Pelu Tran 06 and Leon Bergen, Ph.D. 05

Ferrum Health was born in 2017 at a Peddie gathering  in San Francisco. 

Healthcare technology entrepreneur Pelu Tran ’06 had an idea to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce medical errors in hospitals. University of California San Diego Assistant Professor Leon Bergen, Ph.D. ’05, an expert in natural language processing, a branch of computer science that gives computers the ability to understand language in the way that humans do, was uniquely capable of making Tran’s idea a reality. 

The two connected at the gathering, and soon after,  Tran brought Bergen on board to launch Ferrum Health.
 
Ferrum Health’s technology can be seen in action at Sutter Health, a not-for-profit network of doctors and hospitals in Northern California. When they first became a customer of Ferrum, Sutter had a question: How could Ferrum help them provide equitable care across diverse communities, despite discrepancies in funding and resources? 

“The answer was technology,” said Tran. “Let’s use AI machine learning to analyze and review all the decisions being made and ensure that these patients are receiving the same quality of care across the organization.” 

They began by standardizing lung cancer care. In the first 90 days, Ferrum Health’s technology reviewed over 10,000 CT scans containing lung tissue — 83 of which had discrepancies requiring further review or intervention by doctors. 

The results were encouraging, and their impact was almost immediate.

“I’ve always been about impact,” said Tran. “If I had wanted to make a lot of money, I wouldn’t be in healthcare, and Leon wouldn’t have gone into academia.”

Ferrum is currently working with leading health systems across the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. According to their website, clinicians can use their AI platform in oncology, orthopedics, cardiovascular and breast care. The company has repeatedly noted that AI is a tool that helps reduce the workload of clinicians but will not replace them.

“Finding medical errors is such a transparently good mission,” added Bergen. “We’re going to be saving people’s lives. It’s very hard to find companies with missions that are easier to get behind than helping hospitals, helping patients and catching cancers early.”