In the not so distant past, CAT scans were the ER doctor’s first line of defense in diagnosing certain injury and illness, in spite of increasing evidence pointing to the dangers associated with the over use of CAT scans. Protocols are changing and New York Medical College (NYMC) is leading the way in providing clinical training in “point-of-care ultrasound” (POCUS)—a vastly improved, safer alternative to CAT scans. On February 27, NYMC piloted a full-day “Introduction to Emergency Medicine Ultrasound Course” for medical students to learn POCUS procedures and techniques. Sponsored by the NYMC, the Center for Disaster Medicine’s, new Center of Excellence in Precision Responses to Bioterrorism and Disasters, along with in-kind support from ultrasound manufacturers Fujifilm/SonoSite and GE Healthcare, the program aimed to equip medical students with advanced and capable diagnostic skills.
Whereas in the past, ultrasounds were only used to evaluate the health of pregnant women and their babies, or identifying hidden heart problems, today POCUS is emerging as a safe, cost-effective, and highly precise diagnostic tool, particularly for ER physicians who can use POCUS in lieu of CAT scans to quickly and inexpensively identify and diagnose many acute illnesses and injuries.
“It is important for all medical students to learn POCUS procedures and techniques using state-of-the-art ultrasound equipment so they head into hospitals armed with the most advanced and capable diagnostic skills available to make a difference in patients’ lives,” said Michael J. Reilly, Dr.P.H. '10, M.P.H., director of Center for Disaster Medicine, associate professor of environmental health science, associate professor of clinical emergency medicine, and director of Center of Excellence in Precision Responses to Bioterrorism and Disasters, who directed the course. “Although this pilot was limited to a select group of fourth-year medical students, it is our hope that this type of advanced clinical education is added to the regular curriculum for all students.”
The ultrasound clinic was innovative because many ultrasound education programs are only available during residency training. Toward this end, the ultrasound clinic participants gained a competitive advantage in that they were exposed to ultrasound training much earlier than the majority of their peers.
As a fourth-year medical student planning to go into emergency medicine, Joseph Heiney, left, School of Medicine Class of 2018, has had some clinical exposure to bedside ultrasound and has used and seen it in a variety of diagnostic and therapeutic applications. However, this ultrasound course was his first extensive didactic training with this critical imaging modality. “I feel now that with individualized instruction from experienced ultrasound faculty I have a much more comprehensive understanding of ultrasound, especially musculoskeletal, ocular, lung, and certain abdominal views which I had had little exposure to before,” he said. “It was a fantastic learning experience and I hope it continues and is expanded.”
“This course was a great introduction to the technical skills necessary to utilize ultrasound in the hospital,” said Francesca Izzo, School of Medicine Class of 2018, who participated in the course. “It was a great experience before starting residency and all medical students would certainly benefit from it.”
In addition to Dr. Reilly, the course faculty included Jesson Yeh, M.D. ’09, R.D.M.S., an emergency department attending physician at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, N.J., Nicole Yuzuk, D.O., an emergency department attending physician and director of the ultrasound program at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, N.J., and Rose Anna Roantree, D.O., F.A.C.O.E.P., clinical faculty at TouroCOM – Middletown and emergency department attending physician and ultrasound program director at Orange Regional Medical Center in Middletown, N.Y.