New cardiovascular sonography major approved

GVL/Sara Carte - Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences

Sara Carte

GVL/Sara Carte – Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences

Drew Schertzer

Cardiovascular sonography has long been an emphasis within the diagnostic medical sonography (DMS) program at Grand Valley State University. Now, after many changes, it will stand on its own as a new major.

Cardiovascular sonography is a unique type of ultrasound of the heart’s veins and arteries. The new major currently has one cohort of 16 students and expects to rapidly expand in the next few years, said Katelyn Lowman, the echo director in the College of Health Professions at GVSU.

“Students will get real-world experience,” Lowman said. “They are paired up with an actual cardiovascular sonographer, and do what they would do for an eight-hour clinical day.”

The major also allows for students to study and learn outside of the classroom.

“Seniors are in class two days a week and in clinical sites the other three days, where we (instructors) visit them,” Lowman said.

Clinical sites are where students can get hands-on experience in an environment that will be much like when they graduate. It is the job of instructors like Lowman to maintain clinical sites and to teach students core classes. She works toward providing students with a good foundation of knowledge and the correct experience to enter the workforce.

“This degree prepares students to be ready when they graduate,” said Jennifer VanderPoel, vascular director in the College of Health Professions at GVSU. “When they graduate, they’ll be hitting the ground running.”

VanderPoel, who’s been involved with cardiovascular sonography for more than 18 years, said the new major better represents what the students will be doing. There are different emphasis areas within the field of DMS and cardiovascular sonography is more cardiology-based, which helps identify potential students, VanderPoel said.

DMS, the old major, covered the broad range of ultrasound. Students would cover medical ethics and law, patient care, and could specialize in different sonographic specialties. The new major of cardiovascular sonography gives students the opportunity to learn about two specializations in particular, echocardiography and vascular sonography.

Students will learn about anatomy, medicine and cardiovascular pathology. Students can be expected to perform many different ultrasounds, quite often on each other.

“Students scan each other quite often, but every patient isn’t around 20 years old (so) they’re going to need experience,” VanderPoel said.

Creating the new major wasn’t difficult since they are using existing lab equipment and facilities, Lowman said. Once the paperwork was finished, the office was able to make tweaks to make the new major more efficient, VanderPoel said.

Though just created, Lowman has high expectations for the future of the major.

“We anticipate growth and want to increase cohort size and have more availability for clinical fields,” she said.

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