Thursday, October 16, 2014 12:00 AM

Training program among two in U.S. accredited in pediatric cardiac sonography

Community Regional Medical Center's sonography school has joined the only other program in the United States with accreditation to teach 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.

Sonographer Mario Madrigal practices pediatric echocardiogram techniques on a 1 lbs. 8oz. newborn twin in the Community Regional’s NICU with guidance from Joy Guthrie, Ph.D., RDMS, RDCS, RVT, director of the hospital’s sonography program.“This achievement has put our program in a very elite group,” said Matt Joslin, associate administrator of cardiovascular services at Community Regional. Only the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has all four possible accreditations in sonography. “We’re a vital resource for providing much needed training in the Valley. I’m proud of the team and all they’re doing to mentor sonographers locally.”

Director of the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program, Joy Guthrie, Ph.D., RDMS, RDCS, RVT, started the hospital-based training program in January 2011 to help fill a void in the region. Hospitals in the Valley often have difficulty filling sonography positions and the closest accredited sonography training is in Merced, with most of California’s 10 accredited schools being located in the Bay Area or Los Angeles region.

Community Regional Sonographer Mario Madrigal, a recent hire out of the training program, said moving from Turlock to Fresno for the accredited, advanced training "is probably one of the best things I've done. ...This is great training and a great career."

Guthrie said she sought the additional accreditation, especially in pediatric cardiac sonography, to provide much-needed expertise in helping with neonatal intensive care patients since there are nearly 200 NICU beds in Fresno area hospitals. "We needed this because there are no other accredited schools in California and we make clinical decisions about deliveries based on what we see in utero on fetal cardio echocardiograms. And in the NICU we're focusing on the blood vessels that are supposed to close at birth," said Guthrie.

“It was a long rigorous process and certainly a great team effort,” Guthrie said of the accreditation process, adding that she was grateful for support and help from Sonography Liaison Mike Reinhold, Clinical Coordinator

Carla Savoia and Director of Medical Imaging Steve Bergthold. “We really have an exceptional team of sonographers who take time to provide thoughtful instruction to our students for an extended time,” she added.

Community Regional’s Director of the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program, Joy Guthrie, (pictured center) credits her team which included Michael Reinhold (left), the program’s administrative assistant, and Clinical Coordinator Carla Savoia (right) for helping the program earn accreditation in all four concentrations.

Sonographers use high frequency sound waves, or ultrasound, to help show images of soft tissues, organs and blood flow inside the body and ultrasound is increasingly being used to help detect heart and vascular disease and guide the fine needles used in tissue biopsy. With a median salary of $65,860, sonographer is among the fastest growing healthcare jobs in the country right now. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 46% jump in need for sonographers between 2012 and 2014.

Community Regional’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program has graduated 22 students so far, said Guthrie, who is also the Advanced Practice Sonographer responsible for technical oversight of all sonography services at Community Regional including diagnostic ultrasound, cardiology, neuroscience and the NICU. Guthrie boasts that 86% of those graduates have passed the rigorous exam for the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers on their first try – much better than the 56% first-time pass rate for the ARDMS exam nationally. And 100% of those graduates have found jobs in hospitals.

Guthrie said the sonography program students do all their clinical practice in the hospital and she’s able to find the best students to fill positions at Community as they come available. So far Community Regional has hired 10 of the sonography graduates.

Community’s 18-month sonography program is one of 209 accredited sonography training programs in the U.S. Find out more about perquisites, classes and the application process on our Careers page.

Erin Kennedy reported this story. She can be reached at