June 06, 2013

Maggie Bailey

MIRT Students Selected to Present at International Conference

Six students from the Department of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapeutics will travel to Vancouver, Canada, to share their research at the annual Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Conference.

MIRT Student Presenters
Pictured are, from left, back row: Harsh Gandhi, Lejla Sarajlic, Christopher Kirchgesner and Elizabeth Young; front row, Dina Helina and and Kathleen Yoder. Submitted photo

Six seniors in Saint Louis University's Department of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapeutics have been selected to present scientific abstracts at the 60th annual Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) Conference, known as the premier educational event for molecular imaging and nuclear medicine professionals. Harsh Gandhi, Lejla Sarajlic, Christopher Kirchgesner, Elizabeth Young, Dina Helina and Kathleen Yoder will present to more than 5,000 professionals at this year's conference June 8-12 held in Vancouver, Canada.

In addition, SNMMI's Technologist Section (TS) awarded three students SNMMI-TS Travel Awards, totaling $3,000 that will cover travel expenses to attend the conference. In order to receive the award, students must submit abstracts to a judging panel, and only 30 awards are given out.


In preparation for the conference, the students have been meeting with faculty members Bill Hubble, Crystal Botkin, Debra Hewing, Austin Turner, Marcy Kennedy and Medhat Osman, who all serve as research advisors and mentors for the students.

"We each only have five minutes to present, so we want to make sure we get it right," said Helina, a nuclear medicine technology student. Although each student will be presenting individually, all the students support each other and work together as a team.

For Sarajlic, a nuclear medicine technology student, this year will be her second time attending the annual conference. She will be presenting on the lack of adherence to NRC and SNM guidelines regarding potential radiation exposure to the unborn.

"Last year I didn't know what to expect, but this year I know what to focus on, what the audience is looking for and how to prepare," she said.

Gandhi, another nuclear medicine technology student, will be presenting on a new Alzheimer's imaging tracer that has recently been approved by the FDA.

"It sounds like something small, but it is a big deal," Gandhi said. "It is the first FDA-approved imaging tracer for Alzheimer's. I am really excited to educate others about it."

Young, a magnetic resonance imaging student, will be presenting on the topic of cross-training PET/MRI technologists based on results from a survey she conducted. The survey asked St. Louis-area nuclear medicine technologists and MRI technologists questions about awareness of PET/MRI hybrid systems and their willingness to cross train in order to operate a hybrid system.

"I am the only MRI student presenting out of my group and possibly the only one presenting at this convention, so I wanted to do something that related to MRI and nuclear medicine, as well as up and coming technologies, so viola, PET/MRI hybrid systems require both types of technologist to operate or someone with knowledge in both modalities," said Young.

Each student is excited to attend the conference, but all agree that without the assistance of their faculty mentors, it would not have been possible.
"We have had great guidance and the faculty is truly inspiring," said Yoder, a nuclear medicine technology student.

Focus on Research

The Department of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapeutics has a strong research initiative that started in 2004, and has continued to grow.

"Students benefit from research projects that lead to presentation and publication, prior to finishing their undergraduate studies," said Hubble, chair of the department. "We have outstanding students and faculty that are willing to invest their time to achieve successful outcomes."

Throughout the year, MIRT students are exposed to internal and external research, and are encouraged to get involved with University research activities. Recently, more than 22 MIRT seniors visited the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR) in Columbia, Mo. The internationally recognized MURR, a 10-megawatt facility, is the most powerful among the dozens of research reactors in the nation.

Hubble is delighted that out of 47 students chosen to present and the hundreds who submitted, six are from SLU.

"I am proud of the accomplishments and contributions SLU students have made to the radiology sciences," he said. "Their scientific discoveries are evidence that undergraduates can perform and conduct meaningful research under the guidance of dedicated faculty."

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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