Volunteers lend expertise
University Hospital initially built its volunteer network through the efforts of radiologist Dr. Jeffrey Mendel, PIH’s senior health and policy adviser for radiology. About 40 radiologists at sites across the country—including the Mayo Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the University of California, San Francisco—sign up for two shifts per month.
PIH/ZL hopes to expand these ranks. Mendel would like to have 100 volunteers on board by the end of 2015. Bowder is part of these recruitment efforts; she asks surgeons and physicians who visit PIH/ZL to see whether their home hospitals’ radiologists want to help.
PIH/ZL asks volunteers to interpret a minimum of four to six scans per shift, Bowder said. She also asks volunteers to be available to read urgent scans that must be interpreted within a day or two. Timely and accurate reading of scans can be crucial for patients.
“Rapid turn-around for readings is both important for patients with acute illness … and a challenge for a volunteer network,” Mendel said. “Often I am reading urgent studies late in the evening. However, for many patients with an acute illness or injury, a CT scan may be critical. It allows physicians to make treatment decisions and to assess the extent of injury that may not be apparent on physical examination.”
This rapid interpretation is particularly important for patients with conditions such as trauma, acute abdominal pain, a change in mental status, or chest pain, Mendel said. A CT scan for a patient who had been having seizures and arrived in a coma in December required urgent reading, for instance.
Mendel would like to have 100 volunteers on board by the end of 2015.
A 2013 case provides another vivid example. When 17-year-old Roseline Bernard fell from an avocado tree, X-rays and CT scans helped identify broken bones, internal injuries, and a traumatic brain injury. Without the radiology department, surgery, emergency care, and rehabilitation, Roseline’s diagnosis and treatment would have been far more difficult. Read more about her recovery here.
In addition to reading scans, volunteer radiologists have shared their expertise with medical residents and other clinicians in Haiti, Bowder said. University Hospital staff members have participated in teleradiology conferences with the volunteers.
“They’ll pick five scans a month where they weren’t sure how to interpret it or needed more imaging,” she said. “The residents will present it to the radiologist in the States, the radiologist will go over it with them … and they can ask questions and have discussions.”
The main challenge for the radiology department is a backlog of images. As of late December, 170 non-urgent scans awaited interpretation, Bowder said. She and others are seeking more volunteers to help bring that number down.
Radiologists or fourth-year radiology residents who want to volunteer can apply here.