by Britney Milazzo
Centre Daily Times
The following article was the “Education” feature on Centre Daily Times on February 7, 2016.
FERGUSON TOWNSHIP — South Hills School of Business & Technology administration invested in several million dollars worth of equipment for its Diagnostic Medical Sonography program.
Nearly an entire floor at the school’s Cato Park [building near the State College main] campus is designated just for sonography.
And instructors and administrators said the investment’s worth it, when graduates, like Kimmie Keck, end up working at places like [The] Johns Hopkins University [Hospital].
Keck isn’t the only South Hills grad at the Maryland-based college and medical center, but the 2010 grad was asked to lead a six-year clinical study.
The cardiovascular research sonographer is almost done with the study that collects, compiles, documents and analyzes research data, specifically 2-D and 3-D cardiac, brachial and carotid ultrasounds.
DMS program director and Class of 1999 South Hills grad Tricia Turner said the program was designed to help students prosper.
“We think this is a cutting-edge program, and we don’t just train them to learn the skill, but how to be a part of something bigger,” Turner said. “It’s not just about the students, but thinking about doing right by the patient. We give them the tools and the skills to do that through curriculum and patient care.”
Diagnostic medical sonography is a type of medical imaging that uses ultrasound to produce images of the body.
The program was founded in 1996 by former DMS program director Paul Wagner.
“I knew people in the small business community who had encouraged this kind of program,” Wagner said. “I guess it took about a year and a half to get started.”
The first class in the program started in 1997 with five students.
“I never imagined it would turn into what it is now, but with technology changing, ultrasound is on the forefront of the medical field,” Wagner said. “It’s inexpensive, noninvasive, and there is no radiation like X-rays.”
The program now has about 100 students from as far away as Rochester, N.Y., Wagner said.
There are also about 500 graduates who work in sonography fields across the country, Turner said.
The DMS program offers specializations in cardiac, vascular and general sonography in three diploma and degree programs: a professional diploma program that requires 72 credits or 1,812 hours of completed coursework; a professional plus diploma program that requires 91 credits; and an Associate in Specialized Technology degree program that includes 124 credits.
Depending on the program, it could take a year and a half to three years to complete, Turner said.
Students are able to participate in any of the programs based on eligibility.
“We have everyone from high school graduates to people who are coming into the program with their associates or bachelor’s degrees, and we place them in the appropriate program,” Turner said.
Turner called the DMS program “a front-loader program” where students learn anatomy, train in class on each other, and are required to complete a six-month internship.
About a half dozen students who met with the Centre Daily Times in January were not to the point in curriculum to participate in an internship just yet, but they said getting real-world experience is something that’s appreciated.
“I think it gets you primed for what happens after graduation,” said Kendra Dornisch.
She is about two years into the program and said she wanted to be a part of the medical field because she’s comfortable helping people.
“I got here because I have family members who I had to help take care of for a while,” Dornisch said. “I know it’s something I’m comfortable with, and know it’s (sonography) in a career path that has a lot of promise.”
Turner said sonography is in the top 10 growing professions.
She added that graduates of the DMS programs can go into any sonography-based career and have nearly a 100 percent job placement rate.
“It’s technical, medical and creative,” Turner said. “The transducer is our paintbrush.”
Photos and video by Nabil K. Mark: firstname.lastname@example.org; CDT Graphic by David Kubarek