1491806083074 - Palmerston North medical student heading to Yale University

Palmerston North medical student heading to Yale University

A Palmerston North-based medical student will head to one of the world’s most acclaimed universities to learn a technique that could shape the future of healthcare.

Josh Smith is in the final year of his medical training and is headed to American Ivy League institution Yale University to get training in carrying out point-of-care ultrasounds.

Unlike standard ultrasounds, these can be delivered at a patient’s bed, speeding up decision making – especially at the emergency department.

“People have been saying ‘one day we won’t use stethoscopes anymore, we’ll all carry a pocket ultrasounds’, Smith said.

“It is safe, it is quick, it is cheap and allows you to make decisions at the bedside.”

With growing numbers of people coming into the emergency department, speed was key.

“Anything we can do to improve efficiency is of interest. That is why I think it is an important area to develop.”

Smith said Yale only offered about 100 spaces on each training course, but received about 1000 applications.

He is one of 16 University of Otago students based out of Palmerston North Hospital.

Before travelling to America, he will work out of the emergency department at Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea for five weeks.

From there he will head to Yale for four weeks.

“They will be interesting in different ways. You kind of get one thing from one place and one thing from another.”

Smith said he was interested in the emergency department and hoped both places would add to his experience.

Smith said the point-of-care ultrasound would not replace sonographers, but rather give more doctors more information and quicker.

“The disadvantage of [formal ultrasounds] is you can’t get that information immediately.

“Which is relative to the emergency department because you want to get information about someone who has a head injury or has been in a motor vehicle accident.”

There is no formal ultrasound training at medical school in New Zealand.

Smith said working in the emergency department meant thinking on your feet, but also using your hands.

Point-of-care ultrasound was a good combination of that.

“It is you at the bedside making quick decisions, interpreting images and deciding what to do.”

The opportunity is not cheap though, course fees at Yale are NZ$5000, not including accommodation, so he was now looking at ways to fund the trip.

Smith said Palmerston North had been a great city to learn in and had given him more opportunities than he might have gotten in other cities.

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