By Aine Cryts
Imagine spending your workday driving a car as fast as you wanted on Germany’s autobahn. When he started at Siemens about 19 years ago, Dorin Comaniciu, PhD, drove countless miles on that famous 8,705-mile roadway, most of which features no speed limit. Back then, he was working with a German car manufacturer to develop the machine-learning technology behind lane-departure warnings.

Today, most cars on the road are fitted with this safety feature, says Comaniciu.

While Comaniciu tells AXIS Imaging News that his early days in the automotive division at Siemens were “fascinating,” it’s arguable that he’s having even more of an impact in his current role as senior vice president of artificial intelligence and digital innovation at Siemens Healthineers, the Munich, Germany-based company’s healthcare division.

Comaniciu is based out of the company’s research campus in Princeton, N.J. With 269 U.S. patents on healthcare technology under his belt, he was recently elected to the National Academy of Medicine, which is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health achievement and commitment to service.

“Like Siemens Healthineers, the National Academy of Medicine is committed to transforming the delivery of patient care and improving the patient experience. I am deeply honored to be singled out by my peers for membership in this august organization,” said Comaniciu in an announcement.

In addition to Comaniciu’s U.S. patents, he has co-authored 350 peer-reviewed publications on topics ranging from machine learning to medical imaging to precision medicine.

The research topics that drive Comaniciu include computational imaging and artificial intelligence—translating theoretical concepts into clinical products that help improve the quality of healthcare, in particular in the fields of diagnostic imaging, image-guided therapy, and precision medicine, according to Siemens Healthineers.

But what attracted him to healthcare in 2004? Working on the Siemens Healthineers team is “very motivating on a personal level,” he tells AXIS, pointing to the 240,000 patients who are touched by the company’s approximately 600,000 scanners and devices each hour. “This is extremely motivating,” he says. “It’s an inspiring purpose for anybody who’s working in research where you’re hoping to change the world.”

The many problems that still need to be solved in healthcare continue to keep Comaniciu engaged. “My hope is that through the pioneering work in artificial intelligence, we can see more and more benefits and translate that to our customers and patients,” he tells AXIS.

One thing Comaniciu has learned from working with radiologists, specifically, is to “appreciate the complexity of their work,” he tells AXIS.

He points out that while it takes only a few hours to learn how to drive a car, a radiologist must have years of experience working through complex clinical scenarios to be successful. That’s why Comaniciu’s team works closely with radiologists and other clinicians to ensure the viability of the artificial-intelligence tools the company develops to detect prostate cancer, for example.

“Ultimately, it’s about doing what’s right for the patient,” he insists, whether that’s about developing a scanner that raises flags about a bleed in the brain or tools that allow radiologists to prioritize acute cases.

Aine Cryts is a contributing writer for AXIS Imaging News.