Student Research Reflects SLU's Commitment to Hands-on Learning
ST. LOUIS - Seven undergraduates in Saint Louis University's nuclear medicine technology program have been selected to present their research at the 2011 Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM) Annual Meeting, one of the top conferences in molecular imaging and nuclear medicine. In addition, six residents and fellows also had abstracts accepted to the conference.
Each year more than 7,000 health professionals attend the annual meeting. This year's event, to be held in San Antonio, Texas, will run from June 4-8.
Since 2005, SLU has had roughly 60 student abstracts submitted to the Society of Nuclear Medicine and has had every abstract accepted. For William Hubble, chair of medical imaging and radiation therapeutics, this unusually high acceptance rate speaks to the fresh perspective SLU students bring to the world of research.
"Undergraduate students have no preconceived notions going into research," Hubble explains. "SLU students tend to raise questions about procedures and practices that otherwise go unasked."
In order to graduate, undergraduate students majoring in nuclear medicine technology must complete a research project. However, rather than turn in a research assignment and be done with it, Medhat Osman, M.D., associate professor of radiology, encourages students to take their research to the next level.
"Research is never done in a vacuum," Osman said. "It's important to share what we have learned so that we can continue to progress. Our department has pushed students to submit their work through a formal research process because their ideas have the potential to make a real difference in the world clinical nuclear medicine."
Senior Andrew Kalthoff is just one example of students making a difference in science. Kalthoff's research analyzed a new cardiac imaging system at St. Anthony's Hospital that takes better pictures of the heart in about half the time of the old system.
With this improved imaging, Kalthoff wanted to see if patients could receive a lower dosage of the radioactive tracer used to photograph the heart's activity. He compared 20 patients with the regular amount of tracer and 20 patients with a lower dose of tracer and found there was no difference in the images.
St. Anthony's has since changed its dosage protocol, giving patients a smaller amount of the radioactive tracer.
Senior Amina Turnadzic will also be presenting research at the conference. Turnadzic's research followed five patients who had received PET scans and measured how long the radiation dosage they received prior to the scan radiated off the body.
Turnadzic found that PET scan patients were giving off high amounts of radiation for several hours. This was problematic because patients who had other medical appointments following the PET scan would be giving off radiation to others in the waiting room. Her research suggests that hospitals create separate waiting rooms for individuals who just received a PET scan and educate patients on the importance of hydration which greatly reduces the amount of radiation given off.
Senior Bridget Kistner, a veteran researcher, will be presenting her second undergraduate research project. Her latest research examines why some patients' hearts are visible on a PET scan. For oncology patients, the heart should not appear on the screen at all, but some patients have intense uptake of the radioactive glucose that is injected into the body during a PET scan.
Kistner looked to see if there was a correlation between uptake in the heart and how hard the heart is pumping. Her research found a correlation in a little more than half of the 20 patients she studied. Her findings set up the opportunity for further studies that control for potential confounding factors.
Opportunities to present research at events like the SNM Annual Meeting are a crucial component of SLU's nuclear medicine technology program, which prides itself on hands-on learning.
"I like the program for the real world work experience," Kalthoff said. "By the time I graduate I will have 1,300 hours of clinical experience under my belt."
"Ultimately I want to be a pediatrician," Kistner said. "So I was a little impatient to learn about the human body. Nuclear medicine has definitely given me a solid foundation of how the body works which will be invaluable when I go on to medical school."
To learn more about SLU's nuclear medicine technology program, click here.