Ultrafest 2018

Stanford Department of Emergency Medicine hosted the sixth annual UltraFest on October 21, drawing more than 150 medical students from around the country to learn about the applications and innovations in point-of-care ultrasound.

The event, free to attendees, included hands-on stations and realistic simulations. Using leading edge technology, high-fidelity mannequins, and live models, participants gained valuable practice in manual dexterity, image acquisition and interpretation, and procedural skills.

Dr. Andra Blomkalns, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, provided the opening keynote address, stating, "My job this morning is to convince you, learners, that you are the center of medical innovation."

For many attendees, this was their first exposure to ultrasound. Ultrasound is radiation-free, faster, safer and more cost effective than more traditional modalities, such as CT scans and MRI. Yet, it is a relative newcomer to emergency medicine. When UltraFest first launched six years ago, ultrasound was just gaining recognition as a new tool. Proponents initially encountered reticence to adopt the new technology, particularly from physicians who had no exposure to the modality. However, the benefits were too great to ignore.

Take, for example, an instance where a physician must install a central line in the neck. The accepted procedure was based on the anatomy of roughly 75% of the population. However, for the remaining 25%, with a slight anatomical variation, the traditional method could jeopardize the carotid artery. Ultrasound could detect such instances, where a physical exam could not.

In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the number of institutions including ultrasound in their training curriculum, as well as other ultrafests. 

Those attending UltraFest had yet to declare a specialty, which speaks to the broad potential of ultrasound as a jack-of-all-trades tool for different disciplines. The diversity of applications for ultrasound was also reflected in the range of instructors represented at UltraFest. Teaching sessions and simulations were led by over 20 faculty from Stanford and other institutions, drawing from specialties such as emergency medicine, surgery, vascular, internal medicine, critical care, urology, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.

“This was a great opportunity not just for students, but for instructors,” noted Dr. Deborah Kimball, emergency medicine physician and event organizer. “All of the instructors volunteered their time because they want to teach. The students’ energy and passion for this new modality reminds us of why we went into academic emergency medicine in the first place.”

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