I love being in the echo lab performing studies on my patients. To this day I find it immensely fulfilling! But there is “life” outside of my local echo lab. I am eagerly looking forward to the day that I have the opportunity to share my skills and my passion with people in underserved areas. I hope this brief glimpse into one sonographer’s experience will encourage you to look for “life beyond the echo lab!” —Elizabeth McIlwain, Council Chair
Something happened to me in Rwanda that deeply changed my view of echocardiography. I was there in February with David Adams and others for Team Heart out of Boston on their seventh annual surgical mission. This beautiful country, called “The Land of a Thousand Hills,” is home to over 10 million warm and gentle people, many of whom struggle daily just to obtain water and food. Health care and education, while improving, are still lacking, especially in rural areas. It is impossible to be there without falling in love with the country and connecting deeply with the people. Meeting patients who only eat one meal a day so that their children can eat twice, or walk for days from their villages in hopes of receiving life-saving surgery is both heart-wrenching and inspiring. As Dr. Chip Bolman said in an email after we came back, “This is the best work that we do in our careers, and I am truly humbled and proud to work with each and every one of you.”
These types of humanitarian efforts are also supported by the ASE Education and Research Foundation (ASEF), which through its global initiatives brings adult and pediatric cardiovascular imaging to developing countries, teaching local physicians and providing direct services to those in need. Echocardiography is often the only form of cardiac screening available in these areas because of its mobility, being radiation-free, and ease of administration to patients young and old. Being “on the ground” in these areas has immeasurable benefits for the field: stimulating global connections between physicians, prompting new research ideas, allowing dialogue with engineers and manufacturers on field tests in remote conditions, and, ultimately, providing quality diagnostic cardiac care to the underserved.
The ASEF held two successful events in India in 2012, and provided support for a group of ASE members who organized a medical mission to Vietnam in 2013. What’s next? ASEF will return to India this August to participate in a humanitarian assessment of patients with valvular heart disease and provide training for local healthcare providers. A team of volunteers led by Partho P. Sengupta, MBBS, MD, DM, FASE and David Adams, RCS, RDCS, FASE, along with Srikanth Sola, MD, and Ashwin Venkatesh, MSc, will travel to Bangalore and work with local trainees to guide the clinical and echocardiographic evaluations and lead educational and training activities. Data will also be collected for future educational and research activities and guideline development.