Mary Bird Perkins’ Inaugural Lecture Series Explores the Deployment of Artificial Intelligence in Cancer Treatment

In a move to foster innovation, collaboration and clinical focus, Mary Bird Perkins has launched the H.N. Saurage IV Distinguished Lecture Series in Medical Physics

BATON ROUGE, La.  – Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center has officially launched its new H.N. Saurage IV Distinguished Lecture series dedicated to innovation in medical physics. On October 20, the Cancer Center welcomed Steve Jiang, Ph.D., vice chair and chief of the Division of Medical Physics & Engineering at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, to serve as the series’ first guest lecturer. Jonas Fontenot, Ph.D., chief operating officer, Dr. Charles M. Smith chief of physics, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center and dozens of other Cancer Center team members and students were on hand to hear Jiang share his insights on “Thoughts on the Deployment of Artificial Intelligence in Clinical Practice.”

(l-r) – David Solis, Jr., Ph.D., academic medical physicist, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center; Hank Saurage, philanthropist and Cancer Center board member; Steve Jiang, Ph.D., vice chair and chief of the Division of Medical Physics & Engineering at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; Jerry Goss, philanthropist and former Cancer Center board member; Jonas Fontenot, Ph.D., M.B.A., chief operating officer and Dr. Charles M. Smith chief of physics, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, attend the inaugural gathering of the H.N. Saurage IV Distinguished Lecture Series in Medical Physics.

The lecture focused on several issues facing successful implementation of AI within the realm of medical physics, such as model generalizability, model deterioration, and model interpretability. Through the course of the lecture, Jiang identified these key barriers that, in his experience, have limited the ability to leverage the power of AI for use in improving patient cancer care.

“AI should know what it does and doesn’t know,” said Jiang, as he proposed a possible use of confidence metrics when reporting AI predictions. Key components of his overall approach to successful clinical deployment included concepts of transparency, common sense, and utility.

“Essentially, there is no magic bullet in AI,” said Jiang. “What works for some will not necessarily work for all, and that is okay. The important thing is that we develop AI tools that truly satisfy a particular clinical need and then strive to characterize and report the uncertainties, tolerance boundaries, and criteria for safe use of that tool. The oncologists at Mary Bird Perkins an excellent precision medicine and AI programs that are getting stronger with time.”

Jiang is one of the nation’s foremost experts on medical physics. He has been instrumental in the development of dozens of publications related to artificial intelligence in medicine and the use of adaptive radiotherapy. In 2013, he joined the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, as a tenured full professor, a Barbara Crittenden Professor in Cancer Research, the vice chair of the Radiation Oncology Department, and the director of the Medical Physics and Engineering Division. His research interest includes the development and deployment of artificial intelligence and image processing technologies to solve medical problems. Over the course of Jiang’s career, he has earned numerous awards, including having most recently been elected fellow in the 2022 class of the American Institute for Medical & Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows.

“It’s hard to overstate the impact that Dr. Jiang’s research has had on the study of medical physics and the ways in which we’re able to use that knowledge to treat cancer,” said Fontenot. “Dr. Jiang is a much sought-after speaker and is invited to visit research institutions all over the world, so we are honored to have had the opportunity to host him on the Mary Bird Perkins campus.”

This lecture is the first of many planned for the newly formed H.N. Saurage IV Distinguished Lecture Series in Medical Physics.

Supported by the H.N. Saurage IV Family Fund, this lecture series is committed to scientific education for medical physicists, physicians, and other allied health professionals by inviting distinguished researchers from around the world to travel to Louisiana to discuss their discoveries and share their knowledge. It is also designed to highlight opportunities for future work benefitting patients diagnosed with cancer. The H.N. Saurage IV Family Fund provides resources to support travel and accommodations, hosting of the visit and an honorarium for one invited lecturer each year.

“Thanks to the generous support of the Saurage family and other philanthropists across our community, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center is leading the way in innovative cancer research and collaboration – all right here, in South Louisiana,” said Fontenot. “We are proud of the fact that we can host these high-caliber events that you would typically only find at larger academic institutions. At Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, we are determined to lead in this space and, most importantly, ensure that our patients have an opportunity to benefit from advanced information and technology.”

The event also highlighted the work that Mary Bird Perkins is doing to cultivate the next generation of cancer researchers. As part of the lecture events, a special lunch poster session was held, showcasing the current high-level research performed by graduate student researchers within the LSU Department of Physics and Astronomy and the joint Mary Bird Perkins – LSU Medical Physics partnership. This event provided a unique engagement opportunity for young researchers to share their work with Jiang, research faculty and staff from Mary Bird Perkins, LSU and other members of the cancer care community.

Since 1980, the Center has collaborated with LSU to operate this nationally-recognized graduate education program in medical physics, known as the Dr. Charles M. Smith Medical Physics Program. The program is the only one of its kind in Louisiana and only one of 60 accredited programs in the nation.

“When I talk to members of our community, most folks remark on the high-quality care and compassionate service they or their family members have received from Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center,” said Hank Saurage, philanthropist and Cancer Center board member. “Aside from the day -to-day patient services, it’s important that our community understands the value that Mary Bird Perkins brings to cancer treatment research and in training our community’s next generation of healthcare leaders. My family and I are proud to support this innovative new lecture series. We know that the knowledge-sharing and collaboration fostered by this program could soon benefit our family members, friends and neighbors fighting cancer.”


About Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center                                                                        Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center is a regional cancer care organization that has been fighting cancer for more than 50 years. The cancer care organization provides care at nine centers in Baton Rouge, Covington, Gonzales, Hammond, Houma, Slidell, and Natchez, Mississippi, and its service area encompasses southeast Louisiana and southwest Mississippi regions. Mary Bird Perkins has a strategic affiliation with OneOncology and the largest radiation and medical oncology groups from across the area including exclusive partnerships with Southeastern Louisiana Radiation Oncology Group, which provides radiation therapy throughout Mary Bird Perkins’ service areas, Northshore Oncology Associates, serving St. Tammany and Washington Parishes, specifically the communities of Covington and Slidell and Louisiana Hematology Oncology Associates, which services the Greater Baton Rouge area. For more information, please visit