Headshot of Idris Sunmola.

Announced in May 2021, the Vivien Thomas Scholar Initiative (VTSI) addresses historic underrepresentation in STEM through an endowment of $150 million. Vivien Thomas Scholars will receive up to six years of full tuition coverage, a stipend, and health insurance among other benefits.

“The VTSI Fellowship affords me the resource needed to focus squarely on my research and bring my goal of alleviating healthcare disparities to fruition,” said Sunmola, who is one of 20 scholars selected this year.

“My goal is to utilize modern machine learning techniques to automate surgical procedures with the aim of democratizing healthcare.”

As a researcher, Sunmola’s main focus is on the conjunction of artificial intelligence and physiology. Sunmola has spent time researching the incorporation of neural networks for portable systems into medical devices along with extensive experience in undergraduate research labs for surgical robotics and machine learning.

“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 5% of all hospital deaths are related to complications from surgical procedures. On this front, minorities tend to fare worse than the general public,” said Sunmola of the impact of this field of research.

“Since the availability and accessibility to quality surgical procedures are highly correlated with favorable health outcomes, my graduate research has the potential to improve the lives of minority surgery patients.”

Sunmola joins the PhD program from Northwestern University.  Outside of his research endeavors Sunmola is also a brown belt is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, holding multiple regional championship medals.

For more information on the Vivien Thomas Scholar Initiative, click here.