The Council on Cardiovascular Sonography is always seeking ways to encourage sonographers to continue their development in the field, participate in the ASE, and identify and mentor new Council members. To this end the Council offers travel grants to assist sonographer members in attending the annual Scientific Sessions. Each year, two $1,000 grants are awarded. Applicants must be registered sonographers (RCS, RDCS, RVS, RVT, or the international equivalent), be employed at least part time, and must submit letters detailing why they would like to attend the Scientific Sessions and what they anticipate bringing back to their labs. Recipients also agree to write a JASE “Blue Page” article about their experience. Information about the Sonographer Travel Award can be found on the awards page of the ASE Web site.
This year, the Council awarded travel grants to Neha Soni-Patel, BSME, RDCS, a pediatric echocardiographer at The Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, and Mark D. Zemanek, BS, RDCS, RDMS, RVT, president of Leelanau Diagnostic Ultrasound, LLC, which provides cardiac, vascular, and abdominal imaging to clinics throughout northwest Lower Michigan. Mark also serves as adjunct faculty and clinical affiliate with Sanford Brown School of Echocardiography and is a faculty member at Kirtland Community College School of Vascular Ultrasound. Here’s what they had to say about their experience at the 2012 Scientific Sessions in National Harbor, MD.
1. Why was it important for you to attend the 2012 Scientific Sessions?
Neha: Echocardiographers learn a lot in school, information gets filtered away as we settle into a new job, and knowledge gets streamlined based on our lab echo protocols. The Scientific Sessions offer a way to learn about what research and scientific topics are being discussed and studied beyond the normal echo protocols. Science and continuing education have always been an important part of my life. The conference offered a glimpse into the vastness of the field of echocardiography and, because it is still a young field and there is so much more out there, it is great to be involved early to see what it can become. I was also hoping to find out how I can become more involved in ASE.
Mark: The expectations by patients, payers, physicians, and the general public of what medical professionals should know are high. It is essential to gather relevant and real world information in echocardiography so that it can be retained, used, and translated into increased quality of care, delivered as accurately and as cost effectively as possible. One must interact with one’s peers, learn what they are doing and how they are doing it. Meetings of this nature are increasingly important in maintaining the person-to-person skills and tactile sharing of information and technology that allows all of us to stay in touch.
2. Describe the best session/event that you attended.
Neha: Hearts in space was a fantastic event. It was great to see what can be done and how diverse ultrasound has become. It was, by far, the most invigorating session. It was nice to be in the presence of the pioneers of this project.
In terms of educational sessions, the session on coronary artery dilemmas was the most dynamic of those I attended. Even though audience participation wasn’t actively required, you could see how attentive the audience was as they tried to figure out what the echo was showing on the screen. As echocardiographers, we want to be able recognize anomalies, but at times we can be looking directly at something and not necessarily realize that it is a defect if it is masked by color, or there is no clinical indication. This session was for sonographers, by sonographers.
Mark: Many sessions were related and congruent. I focused on two important tracks in cardiac ultrasound in medicine. One was 3D imaging and its applications in defining ventricular pump structure and function. The other was on the changing reimbursement and regulatory environment. The serial sessions on 3D cardiac ultrasound were the most useful in informing and educating me on the indications, use, advantages and disadvantages of 3D imaging. These lectures were complemented by the excellent real time displays and demonstrations by various vendors, which served to reinforce the current trend of 3D imaging.
On the regulatory and reimbursement side, there is a sense of loss of control, not over the fundamental patient and physician relationships, but over business relationships that have made remarkable clinical advancements possible. The focus from patient-doctor to group-doctor payments mediated by some central authority is discouraging. My challenge will be to help patients understand how these proposed changes will affect their health care decisions. Elsewhere, I face the difficult task of convincing students I instruct in cardiac and vascular ultrasound that they have chosen a fruitful and rewarding career.
3. Based on the sessions you attended and the information you learned have you made any changes in your lab or your practice?
Neha: Currently, in our lab, we do not utilize the 3D or strain options on our machine. As I attended the congenital sonography track, I realized that 3D and strain aren’t just a part of the adult world, but are being fully utilized in the congential and pediatric worlds. Since returning to the lab, I have requested that I start training and becoming proficient in 3D. We cannot fall behind in this ever-changing field. We are currently training 2 sonographers, who will then become the trainers for 3D protocols in the pediatric lab. I hope to soon become proficient in 3D and strain analysis.
Mark: Clearly diastology, valvular analysis, and comments on the structure and function of the heart by ultrasound have been validated as evidenced by the sessions I attended. These sessions validated the methods that have been used within my practice, and have increased my comfort level in greater analysis and reporting. Furthermore, while lab accreditation is not yet mandatory, there is a sense this will need to be accomplished sometime soon in order to validate the quality of our studies, but also to get paid for the work we do.
4. What encouragement would you give other sonographers to attend the ASE Scientific Sessions?
Neha: Come with an open mind, a blank notebook, and plan on purchasing the session recordings. If you truly want to soak in everything, you need to hear the information more than once. One conference can last a few years if each session is studied. With that in mind, the SS is a great place to think about how to become a presenter and researcher. There may be topics that interest a sonographer, and this could be what starts someone on a new project. It’s hard to find out what’s out there in our day-to-day lives, where we are busy with our schedules, or in locations that are not focused on research.
Mark: Read as much as possible from as many sources as possible. Avail yourselves of journals and periodicals from Europe and Asia, as quite a few of the mainstream researchers are from outside the US. Take full advantage of special applications that can be downloaded to “smart” phones and other portable devices that make it easier to interpret the sometimes overwhelming amount of information that can be generated in a state of the art echocardiogram. Finally, take advantage of student membership in the ASE, and maintain membership as a means to keep up with developments and CME opportunities.
5. How are you planning to be more active in your profession and in the ASE as a result of attending?
Neha: I have already started a new discussion community on ASE Connect titled “By Sonographers, For Sonographers,” a place for new sonographers to introduce topics that are pertinent to them. It is a way to share knowledge and experiences from those of us that are learning how to maneuver the field. I’d like to volunteer with ASE, and to one day be a part of an international team like the one that just travelled to India.
Mark: As a faculty member at two colleges in Michigan, the information I have gathered and the sharing of information I have experienced at these sessions will increase my comfort level in the subjects that I will be teaching, namely transthoracic echocardiography and vascular sonography. The natural pairing of echocardiology and vascular imaging science into a more applicable circulatory discipline makes these sessions and the courses I will be teaching far more fulfilling for me and the students.