Kristen DeStigter, MD, FACR, and Interim Chair of Radiology, University of Vermont has received the Global Humanitarian Award from The American College of Radiology Foundation (ACRF) for her work with Imaging the World, an organization she co-founded that brings the life-saving diagnostic tool of ultrasound to some of the poorest, most rural areas in Africa. The ACRF honored Individuals and Organizations for Positive Global Impact of Radiology Services on May 19, 2016, at the ACRF Annual Meeting.
“These individuals and organizations are dedicated to helping those in underserved and developing areas of the world gain improved access to quality radiological services,” said Howard B. Fleishon, MD, MMM, FACR, chair of the ACR Foundation Executive Committee
It all started in the early 1990’s, when Dr. DeStigter, who had traveled to Kenya as part of a research team, brought along a portable ultrasound machine to conduct physical exams at a rural health clinic. She and some of her colleagues were using ultrasound to help diagnose conditions such as twins and breech presentation – ultimately helping patients get the treatment they needed. Over the years, Dr. DeStigter wrestled with the problem of how to make ultrasound available in remote areas in spite of a lack of resources and training, and eventually co-founded Imaging the World (ITW).
ITW uses a revolutionary concept that provides access to scanning in rural communities around the world integrating ultrasound technology, education, quality assurance and community outreach and ownership. In 2010, ITW-Africa (ITWA) implemented its first ultrasound program, obstetrical imaging in Uganda. Since then ITWA has increased imaging resources in Uganda to 6 rural health centers, two regional health centers and a pilot sonographer program in a 3-year nursing school. To date, over 200,000 patients have been scanned through the ITWA program. Although the program started out with basic obstetric scanning, they are continually expanding and have applied a similar model to other disease conditions such as detection of breast cancer, evaluation of liver, kidney and thyroid disease, pediatric diseases, trauma triage, and echocardiography for rheumatic heart disease.
The project yielded additional unexpected, life-changing benefits for patients and their families.
“In Uganda, Imaging the World Africa has impacted the overall healthcare in the areas that we serve. Pregnant women and their families, who initially come to the health care centers for ultrasound, are now being tested and treated for hypertension, anemia, malaria, HIV, TB and parasites, and are receiving much needed education about newborn care, nutrition, non-communicable diseases and family planning.” Dr. DeStigter MD, FACR, and Interim Chair of Radiology.
In addition to the clinical and education service, ITW has collaborated with medical students and doctors at University of Vermont on projects resulting in 9 peer-reviewed papers and 21 national and international presentations, and is currently involved in 10 IRB-approved research projects.