Friday, August 12, 2016 12:00 AM

Community’s advanced cardiac sonography training is nation’s first accredited program

Community Regional Medical Center is the first in nation to receive accreditation to train advanced cardiac sonographers, who will be able to extend the reach of cardiologists, much like nurse practitioners do for physicians.

Joy Guthrie PhD, ACS, RDMS, RDCS, RVT, director of the sonography training at the downtown Fresno hospital and assistant professor of medicine at UCSF-Fresno (Echocardiography), helped push for the new advanced practice designation. She teamed up with Dr. Teresa Daniele, a board certified cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at UCSF, to create the training program for sonographers who practice at an advanced level in an echocardiography laboratory. “Dr. Daniele has been extremely supportive and provides consistent assistance and mentorship to the ACS students,” said Guthrie.

“We have a well-established sonography program and a well-established cardiology fellowship program so this aligns perfectly with our hospital,” said Guthrie. Community also has a history of pioneering this profession, becoming the first hospital-based training program in the region and is currently the only program in the nation accredited to teach in all four learning concentrations – general sonography, adult cardiac echo, pediatric cardiac echo, and vascular sonography. Even programs teaching ultrasound techniques at the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins do not have pediatric cardiac echo approval from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

CAAHEP gave Community’s Advanced Cardiac Sonography training program its official approval, making it the first accredited program in the nation. Mayo Clinic is starting a similar program which is also working towards accreditation, said Guthrie.

Community’s 18-month program is taught mostly online with three weeks of required on-site residency at Community Regional, so eventually, Guthrie said, the program would be able to educate sonographers from all over the U.S. Graduates of the program are prepared to take the rigorous credentialing exam to become an advanced cardiac sonographer, and to become clinical or administrative leaders.

Joy Guthrie, PhD, ACS, RDMS, RDCS, RVT, Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCSF-Fresno
Dr. Teresa Daniele, board certified cardiologist, assistant professor of medicine at UCSF Fresno and medical director/instructor for the Advanced Cardiac Sonography training program.

“These will be sonographers that can look at an echocardiogram and give a preliminary analysis for quality assurance and accuracy to assist the interpreting physician,” explained Guthrie. “They can oversee quality control of other sonographers and they’re trained in research and submissions to the IRB (Institutional Review Board for research with human subjects). It is similar to the difference between being a nurse and a nurse practitioner.”

Sonographers continue to be in short supply nationally and the profession was projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow 30% between 2012 and 2022. Having a way for sonographers to show advanced proficiency has long been needed, said Guthrie.  “We’ve been working on an advanced practice educational pathway and credential for a decade so this is exciting to see it come to fruition,” she said.

The rigorous credentialing test is only open to sonographers with 10 years of experience if they have not been through an advanced practice training program, said Guthrie. But Community’s program is open to credentialed sonographers in adult echocardiography (RDCS or RCS) with three years of clinical experience so that the path to becoming an advanced cardiac sonographer is shortened to 4 ½ years, Guthrie pointed out.

Currently Community has three sonographers in its advanced cardiac training program – two from Community Regional and one from a Modesto hospital. For more details on the Advanced Cardiac Sonography Program go to

Erin Kennedy reported this story. Reach her at