SHRP faculty launch state’s first MRI post-baccalaureate certificate program
By Matt Westerfield
Asher Street was a music major at the University of Southern Mississippi until a timely career change almost 10 years ago led her to consider a career in radiologic sciences.
The Jackson Academy graduate enrolled in the hospital-based radiologic technology certificate program in 2004 and has been at UMMC ever since.
After working as an MRI technologist for the past six-and-a-half years, Street now is seizing another opportunity by helping launch a new post-baccalaureate certificate program in magnetic resonance imaging in the School of Health Related Professions, the first program of its kind in the state.
The program, which will enroll its first students next summer, is the second post-baccalaureate certificate program developed by the Department of Radiologic Sciences, after the Nuclear Medicine Technology Program was begun in 2011.
“I started here in 2004 in the Radiologic Technology Certificate Program before they moved the program to SHRP,” said Street, who will serve as director of the new program. “Back then, there was a hospital-based MRI program which I went through immediately after X-ray school.”
She also passed her MRI registry exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and worked in the clinical setting until the SHRP faculty position opened up during the summer.
Meanwhile, the hospital-based radiologic technology program moved to SHRP in 2009 and became the bachelor’s level Radiologic Sciences Program under the leadership of director Mark Gray.
“The MRI program started as a collaborative effort between the Imaging Department at UMMC and SHRP to allow radiologic sciences students with a B.S. degree to become registered MRI technologists,” said Gray. “That means those students will gain enhanced knowledge of nuclear physics and advanced imaging applications,” he added.
Street said that in its simplest form, an MRI involves using a magnet and radio waves to produce detailed images of soft tissue, allowing radiologists to examine everything from tumors to blood vessels to muscles and more.
“Our disadvantage is time and cost,” she said. “It takes a long time to take an image. Most of our scans last at least 30 minutes, and they’re more expensive than CT scans.”
“And it’s because MRI exams are lengthy – combined with the high volume of patient scans in demand at UMMC – that makes it crucial to have well-trained technologists,” said Dr. Andrew Rivard, director of cardiac imaging.
“Right now, techs are learning on the job, and the workload is tremendous, which leaves little time to learn on the job,” he said. “This program addresses that challenge.”
Street, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in health sciences in SHRP, said the program will start with a small cohort of students and will last three semesters.
“This will be available to students across the state, but there are certain requirements they have to meet,” she said. “They will have to have a bachelor’s degree and will have to have graduated from an accredited radiologic technology program.”
At the moment, Street and the radiologic sciences faculty are working closely with Rivard and other radiologists to develop the curriculum and are accepting applications for the program.
Gray said the overall goal behind the MRI offering was to provide competent imaging professionals “with an advanced degree to meet the demands of the evolving and highly specialized imaging services provided by our profession.”
Jessica Bailey, dean of SHRP, said Street has been a wonderful addition to the faculty.
“We are pleased that the School of Health Related Professions has the flexibility to respond to the needs of both our own health-care facility and the state of Mississippi by implementing programs to train health-care providers for our state,” she said.