SIUC finds worldwide demand for imaging program

SIUC finds worldwide demand for imaging program

By Bonnie Marx

By Bonnie Marx

Radiologic Sciences Department

More than 100 years ago, when the medical miracle of X-rays first dawned, getting an X-ray required exposure of more than 30 minutes to produce an image from inside the body. But it was the first time doctors could see inside the body without actually cutting it open.

It was revolutionary, no question. However, it pales in comparison to the revolution in radiologic sciences–and the medical community–created by computers. One of the most in-demand training programs for this new field is found at Southern Illinois University -Carbondale. The radiologic sciences program, in the University’s College of Applied Sciences and Arts, draws students from all over the world.

Not long ago, the technologists who performed imaging did not need to train for anything more than basic radiography. That’s all changed. Today’s radiologic technologists are expected to be competent in more than one area and highly skilled. It’s a profession expected to be one of the top five most sought after throughout the next decade.

Steven C. Jensen, professor and program director of radiologic sciences, says it’s a challenge to be accepted into the SIUC program. The program routinely receives more than 200 applications for the 35 slots in each new class. Once a student is accepted and successfully completes the program, he or she can expect to entertain many job offers.

“There are 10 jobs for every student,” Jensen said. “I get calls constantly.”

At SIUC, every student is trained in basic radiography, also called radiologic technology or diagnostic radiography, for the first three years of the four-year baccalaureate program. In the fourth year, students choose a specialty from among:

*Medical Sonography (Ultrasound): Medical sonographers use radiation-free, high frequency sound waves with equipment that collects the reflected echoes to form a dynamic visual image of organs, tissues or blood flow inside the body. The images are viewed on a screen. At SIUC, future sonographers concentrate on abdominal (liver, kidneys, spleen and pancreas) and obstetrics/gynecology sonography.

*Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Computed Tomography: Magnetic resonance imaging, the most effective method of diagnostic scanning, is a procedure that uses radio waves, a magnetic field and a computer to produce images of body tissues. Computer tomography uses ionizing radiation and a computer to produce cross-sectional images of the body. It plays a vital role in diagnosing trauma patients.

*Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to injure or destroy cancer cells. High-energy rays, including X-rays and gamma rays, may be used against the cells. For cancer treatment, radiation therapy is often used before surgery to

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shrink malignant tumors and after surgery to stop the growth of cancer cells.

Each specialty has its own accreditation, educational and clinical training requirements. Students get clinical experience, in all but the first year, at hospitals and clinics throughout Illinois and other states.

Jensen would like to see his program grow by giant leaps to help meet the increased demand, but it’s an expensive proposition. Currently the program has five ultrasound units, all of which were donated. New ones cost $225,000 or more. The price tag is the same for a 3-D treatment planning computer with software and a radiation treatment simulator. The program has been given a treatment simulator and is seeking funds to cover the costs of installation. Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging units can run up to $1 million each.

Jensen is quick to note that the program is indebted to the people at hospitals and clinics who supervise and help the students through their clinical experiences.

“There is no better public service that can come from SIUC or the region than to place these students back into their home communities to meet the medical needs of those communities,” he said.

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