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Elementary, My Dear Watson!

Even a medical superstar can use a little help sometimes.

The subject of a New York Times feature this week, Gurpreet Dhaliwal is an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and is widely considered one of the medical world's top diagnosticians.

Other doctors frequently contact him with cases they're unable to solve. At conferences, he puts on diagnostic roadshows of sorts, puzzling out hopelessly complicated sets of symptoms as crowds of hundreds look on.

"To observe him at work is like watching Steven Spielberg tackle a script or Rory McIlroy a golf course," the paper says. Or maybe like an episode of House, without all the shouting.

Dhaliwal doesn't work alone, though, the Times reports. In addition to his own eye and experience, he also sometimes uses a diagnostic software program, Isabel, developed by a former London money manager.

Such "diagnostic software has been slow to make its way into clinical settings," the paper notes, but more sophisticated versions could be on the way. In particular, IBM is collaborating with researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to develop its Watson system — last seen crushing humans at Jeopardy! — for medical diagnostic purposes.

"You might think you're in familiar territory, but the computer is here to remind you there are other things," Dhaliwa tells the Times.

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