CT scan

Harnessing AI to make CT scans safer, faster and more sustainable

25 March 2024
Meet the vascular surgeon, who became a surgeon scientist and a clinician entrepreneur
From the University of Sydney to Oxford University, Master of Surgery graduate Professor Regent Lee wears many hats as he pioneers new clinical imaging technology.
Professor Regent Lee

Master of Surgery graduate Professor Regent Lee.

Professor Regent Lee’s career trajectory has skyrocketed from its early beginnings.

After completing his undergraduate medical degree in Western Australia, he returned home to Sydney to begin a medical internship at St Vincent’s Hospital.

This led to further training in the then newly established vascular surgery specialist training program with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

“While training to be a vascular surgeon I met a senior trainee who had recently completed the Master of Surgery program at the University of Sydney," says Regent.

"He had a great experience with the course and inspired me to consider this option."

Part of Regent’s attraction to the course was the calibre of academics in the teaching team.

“The research component of the course was with Professor John P. Fletcher at Westmead Hospital, who was a widely respected academic vascular surgeons during that period,” says Regent.

“I gained lots of theoretical skills for research from the Master of Surgery, particularly in statistical methods.

"These skills became foundation to my subsequent academic research career.”

From surgeon, to academic, to entrepreneur

It was during a vascular surgery training program exchange to Oxford in 2009 that further inspired Regent to pursue a career in academic surgery.

“I wanted to gain new career skills by pursuing rigorous research training in one of the most international recognised academic institutions," says Regent.

Regent made his dream a reality when he was awarded a Surgeon Scientist Research Scholarship from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in Cardiovascular Medicine, which he completed at the University of Oxford.

“Being able to study at Oxford and be surrounded by pioneering researchers and world class experts was a life changing experience for me,” reflects Regent.

These days, Regent is wearing three hats in his career: as a vascular surgeon, surgeon scientist and now, also as a clinical entrepreneur.

“I am developing an additional entrepreneurial career path where I serve as Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of AiSentia, a University of Oxford Spinout company,” says Regent.

Regent is also leading an International Transdisciplinary Consortia to advance artificial intelligence (AI) science for computed tomography (CT) imaging.

His team has developed the pioneering technology (CT Digital Contrast) which can make Computerised Tomography (CT) scans safer, faster, more equitable and more sustainable.

“As a surgeon scientist, I have spent most of my career so far pushing the limits of translational research which may improve the care of patients," says Regent.

"The research by NetZeroAICT consortium (an extension of the AICT consortium) is creating a new discipline of research which is uniquely placed at the intersection of healthcare research, AI science and environmental sustainability.

“A key mission for the consortium is to further develop the research which will ‘digitise’ the process of performing contrast enhanced CT scans and minimise the need to give ‘physical’ contrast agent injections.”

Coming full circle

The NetZeroAICT Consortium has the ultimate goal of reducing the environmental footprint of CT imaging.

A landmark paper published in The Lancet Regional Health by a number of researchers, including Dr Scott McAlister at University of Sydney, found that each CT scan generates on average 9kg of carbon emissions.

“By implementing CT Digital Contrast in clinical practice, we are poised to reduce the carbon footprint of healthcare delivery,” says Regent.

“We took this proposition to the European Commission and were awarded a $6 million Horizon Europe research and innovation grant to develop CT Digital contrast as a tool to improve environmental sustainability of healthcare systems.

"This new frontier of research transcends translational research to a new level, not only will we improve patients’ health, we will also improve planetary health."

The University of Sydney is now partnering with the Horizon Europe NetZeroAICT consortium.

The University of Sydney team is led by Professor Alex Pitman, Professor Martin Ugander and Dr Scott McAlister

“I feel like I’ve come full circle,” muses Regent.

“I am looking forward to returning to the University of Sydney and working with my collaborators, which in turn will lead to more opportunities to network with stakeholders in the Australian academic landscape.”

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