Ultrasound Education


The Program for Medical Ultrasound at Wake Forest School of Medicine enjoys a rich history of advancing ultrasound education.

The story begins in 1963, when James F. Toole, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology, hired William M. McKinney, MD (1930-2003) to join the faculty. McKinney, who grew up in Roanoke, Va., as the son of a radiologist, had become interested in ultrasound in 1961 during a fellowship at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, where he earned his medical degree. He brought his enthusiasm for ultrasound to the School of Medicine, where it grew into a passion.

McKinney used ultrasound to detect midline shift in the brain. He helped organize an educational program for echoencephalography in 1964, and he pioneered research of ultrasound as a tool to study the carotid arteries in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His work applying ultrasound to diagnose and treat the nervous system earned him recognition as the “father of neurosonology,” a branch of sonography that has remained a strong suit at the School of Medicine ever since.

Creating an External Program

A milestone year arrived in 1975. Richard Janeway, MD, executive dean of the Medical School, established the Center for Medical Sonics, with James F. Martin, MD, professor of Radiology, serving as its first director. The Center transformed what had been purely internal seminars into external courses. Thus, the institution became one of the first to offer formal instruction in diagnostic medical ultrasound at the time when sonography was entering mainstream use. Thirty-nine faculty members from 11 departmental specialties served as instructors during the first course, a 10-week program that began in October 1975.

McKinney served as president of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine from 1974-1976, and the organization held its 1975 annual convention in Winston-Salem. The first examinations for the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography used equipment in the commercial exhibit booths at that conference for the practical scanning portions of the exams. Sonography equipment in those days weighed 400 pounds and produced only grayscale images, but the expanding use of ultrasound created a shortage of qualified practitioners.

The Center for Medical Sonics offered the series three times the next year and had advance reservations for all three, including many from foreign countries.

Prominent Faculty Members

Frederick W. Kremkau, PhD, was among the first faculty members teaching courses after the convention. Kremkau, an electrical engineer who had used sonar in the U.S. Navy to hunt enemy submarines, joined the faculty in 1972, soon after completing his doctoral research work in echocardiography at the University of Rochester. Kremkau recognized that the rapidly growing discipline would require a readily available and authoritative curriculum resource for new students and medical professionals seeking to update their skills.

In 1980, Kremkau published Diagnostic Ultrasound: Principles and Instruments, which is now in its ninth edition (rechristened Sonography: Principles and Instruments) and remains the definitive textbook for sonography students. Kremkau succeeded Martin as director in 1986, and served as president of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine from 1997-1999.

Throughout its existence, the Program for Medical Ultrasound has benefitted from strong partnerships with School of Medicine departments. Faculty members from numerous specialties have made important contributions to the field of ultrasound and helped establish the school as the ultrasound center for several multicenter national clinical trials in the 1980s and 1990s. Lewis H. Nelson, III, MD, RDMS, a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, became the third faculty member to serve as president of the Institute, from 2003-2005.

Center for Applied Learning

In 2009, the School of Medicine established the Center for Applied Learning, and the Program for Medical Ultrasound became an integral part of the Center, which brings together a variety of immersive learning resources, unique curricula and faculty expertise across clinical disciplines. The dedicated ultrasound scanning labs, together with patient simulation laboratories, a surgery academy and an anatomical training center comprise more than 28,000 square feet of teaching space. The Center serves as a regional, national and international service provider of clinical training courses, specialized training sessions and continuing medical education. James E. Johnson, PhD, associate professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy, is director.

When Wake Forest Innovations was created in the Fall of 2012 to boost the creation and commercialization of innovative products and services, the Center for Applied Learning gained a new home. Its ability to attract outside institutions to its skilled clinical training makes the Center a key component of Wake Forest Innovations.

The Center’s affiliation with Wake Forest Innovations came about at a key point in the Program for Medical Ultrasound’s future.

Since its inception, the Program for Medical Ultrasound has taught the art of ultrasound to more than 25,000 physicians, sonographers and other allied health professionals from around the world. Attendees have traveled from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and 22 foreign nations. Today, the Program for Medical Ultrasound enjoys an international reputation for hands-on applied learning using live patient models for scanning within dedicated scanning rooms and fresh human tissue in curricula that require anatomy or supervised practice in ultrasound-guided procedures. It is one of only two ultrasound training centers based at medical institutions in the United States.

The Program for Medical Ultrasound maintains strong relationships with professional societies, such as Institute and the Society for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, and it enjoys the support of industry partners, such as General Electric Healthcare, Philips Healthcare and SonoSite. As sonography advances, the Program for Medical Ultrasound remains poised to lead the way in ultrasound training.

Learn more about registering for a course or partnering with the Program for Medical Ultrasound at +1.336.716.4505 or cmu@wakehealth.edu.


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