November 2009, Volume 13, Number 8


Precise Radiography

Technician reviews x-rays

Imagine studying photography with a non-functioning camera from the 1950s. That explains a situation that was quite common at many training facilities for medical technicians.

Three new laboratories fitted with the latest technology are now being used as teaching tools for students in MDC’s School of Health Sciences.

“It’s like going from an old crank camera to one that produces 10 to 15 megapixel images,” explained professor Maday Fernández, an MDC alumnus who works as a nuclear technician at Coral Gables Hospital.

The labs at Medical Center Campus have been retrofitted with computed radiography machines and phantoms, replicas of human heads, torsos, and other body parts, complete with full skeletons. Instructors in the Veterinary Technology, Medical Assisting and Physician Assistant programs are putting them to heavy use.

As the name suggests, computed radiography machines compose digital images and don’t require darkrooms or film for processing. This kind of technology is common within the industry, so when students graduate, they will be familiar with the machinery they encounter in clinic or hospital laboratories.

“We used to teach students in the classroom about positioning body parts, but before, there was no real way of grading whether or not they were doing it right,” said Merlin Zolfaghari, director of the radiology program. “They would have to learn what they were really doing right or wrong on live patients.”

If a student is learning how to photograph a liver, for example, they now get hands-on instruction. “We can tell them now, it’s too high or low,” Zolfaghari said. “Maybe there’s too much exposure or not enough, or the area is too wide.”

For radiation therapy students, who are learning how to fight cancer cells with radiation, they can learn how to better localize treatment.

“Before you would just radiate a whole area and kill more good cells than necessary,” Zolfaghari said. “This makes it more precise.”

— Pilar Ulibarri de Rivera and Gariot P. Louima

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