Imaging specialists look beyond the skin

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Three Airmen assigned to the 6th Medical Group, are looking beyond the skin to provide care for nearly 2,500 patients annually.

Diagnostic imaging specialists are medical professionals that use imaging equipment and soundwaves to form images of many parts of the body, known as ultrasounds. They are trained to acquire and analyze these sonographic images so that doctors can diagnose and treat many medical conditions.

“This is something I have wanted to do ever since I joined the Air Force,” said Tech. Sgt. Leila Liza Smith, a diagnostic imaging specialist with the 6th MDG. “I found out that I would be studying radiology during my seventh week of basic training and I immediately volunteered to learn ultrasound as soon as I could.”

Learning doesn’t stop after the initial training. Smith is evaluated periodically to maintain certifications. Often times, these three technicians practice on each other to hone in their skillsets.

Other upgrade training opportunities are available for Airmen wanting to pursue more advanced sonographic careers such as cardiovascular sonography or nuerosonology.

Diagnostic imaging specialists evaluate images produced by the ultrasound to help doctors detect abnormalities, such as lumps or nodules on the thyroid gland. Smith shares her pride in engaging with patients to make decisions affecting their diagnoses and care.

Smith emphasized that her favorite interactions involve prenatal sonograms, where she checks on the health and development of babies in the womb.

“Patients would come in for their first trimester scan, and we would literally watch that baby grow in utero,” said Smith. “During their anatomy scan, many people try to find out if it’s a boy or a girl … it’s very exciting. We really have the chance to grow and bond with our patients through this process.”

In contrast, technicians must be ready to support patients during unfavorable times. Scanning for breast cancer is a large portion of work they do.

“Seeing patients that we found had breast cancer, come back in and tell us they beat it because we caught it just in time is such a rewarding feeling,” said Smith. “It puts all that we do in perspective, ‘We saved your life and that’s why you’re here.’”

MacDill AFB is committed to preserving the health of Airmen and their families, the care these specialists provide is crucial in maintaining force readiness for the thousands of Airmen across the installation.