Hiten Patel, MD, will be the first fellow for the 2020 inaugural Point of Care Ultrasound Emergency Medicine Fellowship — Family Medicine Track. 

This new collaboration between the Department of Emergency Medicine and the Department of Family and Community Medicine will help bring more attention to the benefits of using POCUS in the primary care setting, and will enhance the education and training provided to medical students and residents interested in primary care.

POCUS has gained popularity quickly over the past five to 10 years, particularly for use in emergency departments, global health initiatives and medical mission trips. 

Ultrasound use in a primary care setting has countless benefits: it decreases patient cost, helps prevent unnecessary trips to the emergency department, increases accuracy of diagnoses and procedures, and provides better access to care for patients who would otherwise have to go to a separate imaging location.

Bethany Panchal, MD, FAAFP, the Department of Family and Community Medicine’s ultrasound champion and associate residency director, has long been interested in increasing the use of POCUS in family medicine. She began collaborating with Creagh Boulger, MD, and David Bahner, MD, leaders of the Ultrasound Division in the Department of Emergency Medicine, to figure out how the two departments could work together to increase family medicine residents’ exposure to POCUS education.

Currently, residents get an ultrasound workshop once a quarter in a case-based teaching environment to train them in image acquisition and interpretation as well as how to integrate POCUS into primary care diagnostic options. While this is a great opportunity for residents, more frequent exposure to POCUS would increase comfort levels with the tool and improve diagnostic accuracy.

The Ultrasound Fellowship in the Department of Emergency Medicine has existed for many years, but did not have a primary care setting component as part of the curriculum. Dr. Panchal is working with Drs. Boulger and Bahner to develop the curriculum for the combined fellowship. The fellow will split time between the emergency department, family medicine setting and training time with ultrasonographers and other specialties, and will also provide education and training to medical students and residents.

Dr. Patel became interested in ultrasound as a medical student when he attended UltraFest, the Department of Emergency Medicine’s annual event to showcase POCUS research and provide hands-on learning experiences for medical students and residents.

“A stethoscope is great, but it only tells you half the story,” he said. “An ultrasound gives you more of a full picture.”

Dr. Patel looks forward to the fellowship program providing him a greater comfort level performing and interpreting a variety of scans, and hopes to conduct a research project on the implications of POCUS on patient care in the office setting. 

“The technology of POCUS is so advanced and with artificial intelligence its power only increases. Now we need ultrasound education to catch up so that our healthcare providers are comfortable using it.”

Dr. Patel will begin the one-year fellowship in July.