The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Providence brings state of art to Seward


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Radiology director Sara McDonald and technician Sara Dusage stand to the left of Providence Seward's new GE Logic E9 ultrasound scanner while chief operator Kimberly Strehlow gets a grip on the mobile unit.

Sara McDonald has been radiology supervisor at Providence Seward for almost 7 years. Since her move to the Seward area in 2006, she has capitalized on experience gained during her previous experience at Maui Memorial hospital to work toward keeping Seward's hospital at the leading edge of diagnostic technology. That past life taught her the ins and outs of justifying, finagling and procuring equipment as she helped rebuild a private practice into a community facility.

Due in large part to her tireless crusade to upgrade equipment, Providence Seward is now home to a brand new, state-of-the-art ultrasound machine. And, according to operator Kimberly Strehlow, its uses go well beyond the commonly held perception of ultrasound as only being applied in pregancies. A recent arrival to Seward, Strehlow hails from northern Minnesota, where she most recently worked with ultrasound and nuclear medicine in a regional hospital. Her department had two similar ultrasound machines.

"This facility is really exceptional and we're very fortunate to have that. I come from a rural area and critical access hospitals are extremely important. To have an imaging radiology capability and the staff that you have with your doctors and your ER here are wonderful," she says. "One of the things that I've learned through the years is that if we can stabilize people and get them to where they need to go quickly, the importance of a small hospital like this and the training and the experience of this team I find to be absolutely fabulous."

"Because, what I've seen here in the short time that I've been here is a lot of saving lives. And nothing that really comes through this door is a simple case. A lot of them are trauma and they're fast to act and stabilize and get them to where they get critical care help and I'm very impressed," Strehlow adds.

When it comes to the equipment, Strehlow is similarly enthusiastic. According to her, the new GE Logic E9 model is light years ahead of the outgoing Accuson Sequoia.

"It's 100 pounds lighter than the old machine. High resolution screen, more power, better penetration, especially for larger patients," she says. "Ultrasound has a wide variety of uses beyond pregnancies. Looking for blood clots and examining varicose veins, vascular studies and looking at thyroid glands, carotid arteries or gall bladders are all made simple. There's no X-ray or radiaion exposure with it. It has no known bioeffects. Safety-wise doctors are using it a lot more."

"Put together with a CT scan of the head, the ultrasound is really effective at looking for stroke," McDonald adds. "It has 3D/4D for pregnancy ultrasounds which can help diagnoses for cleft palate. There's a lot of abilities comparable and compatible with CT imaging. Images from a CT scan or MRI can be cross referenced to a specific body location for position and explored via ultrasound for further diagnosis."

The last major upgrade at Providence Seward was a 16 slice CT imager, housed in a well engineered trailer outside of the Seward ER doors. Now McDonald has her sights set on procuring a new mammogram machine. In the meantime the Providence mobile mammography unit visits Seward once a month and McDonald says that has been working out well.

The third member of the Providence Seward radiology team is Sara Dusage. She been with the local hospital for over 5 years after originally coming to Seward for an internship at the Alaska SeaLife Center that turned into a job. She works with everything except, so far, the ultrasound equipment.

The three are on call around the clock but typically work 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. shifts. Recently they have begun to adjust their hours to correlate with the Seward Community Health Clinic so that radiology services are available to the SCHC patients.

Strehlow says the choice for clinic or emergency patients is obvious. Between Seward Providence and the Seward Community Health Clinic, patients all the way up the Seward Highway to Moose Pass would be better off heading into town where they can get treated and stabilized, "I think that for all of us here, patient care is our biggest mission. That's the thing I like most about working here is that everyone really cares," she says.

"That's the reason I'm in it, is for the patients. I think that's the only way that you can be as a technologist or a nurse or what have you, is if you're in it for the patients," McDonald concludes.


Reader Comments

Louieinmn writes:

Exciting changes! Nice to see positive changes in personnel and equipment!

CookMissesYou writes:

What a great addition of skill and technology for your medical imaging team! An ultrasound machine is only as good as the technologist who operates it, fortunately you have gotten one of the best! Seward/Providence's gain is a great loss for the communities in northern Minnesota.


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