by Natalie GutierrezUsually, when a primary care physician recommends a patient receive a sonogram, the doctor prepares a referral and sends the patient to a hospital or radiology clinic. But that practice may soon become a thing of the past.
Thanks to funding from the SBC Foundation, the Health Science Center is leading efforts to train all future primary care physicians to be proficient in the use of ultrasound equipment and techniques so theyíll be able to perform sonograms right in their own exam rooms.
"Currently only 5 percent of primary care physicians nationwide are proficient in ultrasound," said Gerald Dodd III, M.D., professor and chair of the department of radiology. "We are working to change that so more physicians are proficient in sonography and prepared to better serve their patients."
In 2006 the Health Science Center will be the only school in the nation to enroll all of its entering medical students into the ultrasound training curriculum called "Sonography at the Point of Care."
"Our goal is to provide four years of training for all medical school students so they graduate fully proficient in the use of ultrasound technology and techniques," Dr. Dodd said.
The SBC Foundation has funded the purchase of several hand-held compact ultrasound machines, which are the size of laptop computers and can be carried in a briefcase or backpack. The machines are much smaller, more versatile and less expensive than traditional ultrasound machines.
Dr. Dodd said plans are in place to provide digital images produced by the machines to the Visualization and Simulation Center at the Health Science Center so that students can access them via the Centerís Web-based network. Students will be able to access the images as study aids or as guides when performing sonograms or invasive procedures such as needle injections or tumor biopsies.
Dr. Dodd also plans to incorporate remote monitoring stations into the program so that faculty members can view, guide and evaluate students as they perform sonograms on actual patients in hospital settings or in clinics.
"With the SBC Foundationís support, all Health Science Center Medical School graduates will be ultrasound experts who can care for their patients at the initial point of contact - in the doctorís office," Dr. Dodd said. "Ultimately, that will decrease the time it takes to make correct diagnoses and administer appropriate treatments."
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