TCOM students learning key Ultrasound technology, but also teaching it themselves

April 28, 2021

By Steven Bartolotta

TCOM Student Louisa Weindruch saw what it could do in an emergency room. Cassidy Weeks recognized its value to rural health care. That’s why both students are striving to learn all they can about the emerging use of ultrasound technology to diagnose disease and potentially save patients’ lives.

The pair of second-year Texas College of Osteopathic Medical students recently completed a study on the teaching technique that is fundamentally expediting the learning curve for students using ultrasound. The technique is called “near peer teaching”.

They presented their findings to a prominent audience at the RTT Collaborative National Conference on April 9.

“I think it made for a better learning environment because your classmates are more willing to fail in front of you, a classmate, instead of an instructor,” Weeks said. “Ultrasound is such a hands-on skill, so what we saw was students are willing to try and test out the ultrasound in many ways with the TA’s (teaching assistants) and students to help guide them.”

TCOM has been weaving the Ultrasound technology into its curriculum over the last few years. Weindruch was already a believer before she arrived at medical school.

“I actually became interested in Ultrasound when I was an emergency room scribe,” Weindruch said. “I saw how useful ultrasound was and when I got to TCOM in our first year they started to implement it just a little into our learning. I wanted to get better at it myself and, the more time I spent doing it, the better I got.”

Near peer teaching is when material is taught to students by their peers, which students utilized in the ultrasound curriculum at TCOM.  Point of care ultrasound is incorporated into the Year 1 Physical Exam and Year 2 Simulation Lab. In both settings, Ultrasound Teaching Assistants, a group of second-year students who have attended additional training and practice sessions, lead instruction.

TCOM Peer TeachingTCOM’s Assistant Dean for the Office of Rural Education Dr. John Gibson, who is developing the curriculum for the ultrasound, realized early on that he might have to approach it differently.

“It was really an invention born of necessity,” Gibson said. “We only had a few faculty that were good at teaching ultrasound, so I knew I had to come up with something different.”

TCOM’s Class of 2023 took immediate interest in near peer teaching and, when Dr. Gibson started to offer extra training for TA’s and interested students, over 30 students showed up.

“The biggest thing about near peer teaching is it’s very low stress,” Weindruch said. “It’s a little intimidating with a hands-on skill when you have a physician who’s been doing it for 40 years looking over your shoulder. When it’s just us (students), we can laugh about making mistakes and it’s more casual and you’re not nervous about the little things.”

The results speak for themselves. A survey showed that 71 percent of the students say near peer teaching benefited them and 100 percent of TAs surveyed said it was beneficial for them.

“I think that one of the most interesting takeaways from it was it taught them more and it fostered their interest to be better at ultrasound,” Weeks said. “TAs and students both said that it benefitted them personally.”

Near peer teaching and ultrasound itself has taken off with TCOM students. The Class of 2024 had nearly 80 people showing up for extra training as the students see the long-term benefits to the technology. Weeks and Weindruch both plan to take this skill with them into the clinic when they graduate. Weindruch is pondering a specialty of Emergency Medicine or Pediatric Emergency Medicine, where ultrasound could save lives in a matter of minutes.

Weeks is planning to practice family medicine in a rural setting, where Ultrasound can be a difference maker.

Near peer teaching wasn’t the only success. The presentation by Weeks and Weindruch was so successful it received praise from the President of the RTT Conference.

“It’s becoming a prominent staple in primary care and it’s stemming from the rural setting,” Weeks said. “It can help you in a rural setting before you refer anyone to a specialist or an ER, but it’s also inexpensive and has fewer complications. Ultrasound has a great ability to level the playing field for those patients who have a hard time getting access to health care.”

“It’s huge, taking ultrasound to rural health,” Dr. Gibson said. “This has been very inspiring to the students and for the pre-clinical students they can already start learning how to do preventative health care.”

Dr. Christina Robinson preforms eye exam on young boy
HSC launches campaign focused on overcoming health disparities

By Alex Branch Health disparities exist all around us. They exist for the woman working two jobs who delivers a preterm baby after complications caused by chronic stress. The Texas farmer whose high blood pressure goes undetected because he can’t drive two hours to the ...Read more

May 5, 2021

Dr. Dickerman, a neurosurgeon and UNT Health Science Center alumnus, recognized that surgery was required and stood over her one morning at Presbyterian Hospital of Plano, gazing steely-eyed through a microscope as he made a 20-millimeter incision in her lower back.
At HSC, experts search for cures to ‘most aggressive form of brain cancer’

By Diane Smith-Pinckney Malignant brain tumors, known as glioblastoma multiforme, spread aggressively and are described as incurable. The five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with this cancer –  also known as GBM –  is only 6.8 % and the average length of survi...Read more

May 3, 2021

Hsc Academic Services Team Fc
Supporting students and community through the pandemic has been top priority for SPH Academic Services team

By Sally Crocker One year ago, COVID-19 turned the world upside down. Before the pandemic arrived, the HSC School of Public Health Academic Services department was in the usual zone, providing day-to-day resources and support to students, managing weekly “SPH Interlude” events with...Read more

Apr 23, 2021

City Of Fort Worth Tcom Proclamation Fc
City of Fort Worth Recognizes TCOM during National Osteopathic Medicine Week 

By Steven Bartolotta The City of Fort Worth recognized the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine on Tuesday with a proclamation celebrating National Osteopathic Medicine Week. TCOM Dean Dr. Frank Filipetto, along with first-year students Saanji Desai and Alex Frangenberg received the proc...Read more

Apr 22, 2021