Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New MRI Machine Provides Faster Scans, Better Images

Dr. Melanie Clark, assistant professor of radiology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, said the USA Medical Center has recently installed a new, more technologically advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine that provides doctors the best diagnostic imaging available in our region.

An MRI is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body. In many cases, an MRI gives unique information about structures in the body and may also show problems that cannot be seen with other imaging methods.

USA’s new MRI machine is a 3 Tesla (3T) model, and it replaced the previous 1.5 Tesla model MRI machine. A Tesla is the unit of measurement quantifying the strength of a magnetic field.

Dr. Clark said the new machine is more convenient and provides better quality of care to patients because of the capability for faster scans and better images. When a patient moves during an MRI it can distort the image. As a result, the faster and more efficient the machine is, the better the image will be. Faster results also make the examination more comfortable for the patients.

Dr. Clark said the overall enhanced resolution and fine detail the machine provides allows the referring physicians and interpreting radiologists a clearer picture, which produces better results for the patient.

“This is the only 3 Tesla MRI machine in the Alabama Gulf Coast area, and it dramatically decreases the examination time for the patient, as well as improves the image quality significantly,” Dr. Clark said. “It enhances everyone’s experience - both the physician and the patient.”

Doctors order MRI scans to diagnose a host of medical conditions, including tumors, bleeding, injury, blood vessel diseases, or infections. An MRI also may be done to provide more information about a problem studied with another type of scan.

Dr. Clark trained an extra year in musculoskeletal imaging. At the USA Medical Center, she primarily reads scans of bones and joints in orthopaedic patients.

“At USA, I am the specialty reader for these scans and use my training and expertise to give the highest level of care to our patients and qualified guidance to the residents I train,” she said. “I am always available to any patient or clinician if they have questions.”

Dr. Clark also does procedures for patients to enhance the MRI’s capabilities to diagnose problems and procedures to relieve pain in joints, such as a hip injection.

She said the combination of MRI machines at the USA Medical Center and USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital, along with the expertise of the radiology faculty, provides patients an opportunity for care that they can only get from an academic medical center.

“The MRI machine at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital is an open MRI with a special, wider opening, which is less intimidating for children and those who have claustrophobia,” she said. “Our new 3T MRI at the USA Medical Center complements that technology and helps us provide an unprecedented level of care for our patients that is unique to the area.”

Feb. 28th Distinguished Scientist Seminar to Feature Dr. Troy Randall

The next Distinguished Scientist Seminar at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine will feature Dr. Troy Randall, J. Claude Bennett Professor of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The lecture, titled "Local Immunity to Tumors and other Antigens in the Peritoneal Cavity," will take place Feb. 28, 2013, at 4 p.m. in the Medical Sciences Building auditorium on USA's main campus.

Dr. Randall earned his bachelor of science degree in chemistry at the University of Denver and his Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology at Duke University in Durham, N.C. In addition, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University.

Dr. Randall's lab is focused on pulmonary immunity to viruses, tumors and allergens; peritoneal immunity to tumors and commensal organisms; control of CD8 T cell responses to viruses and tumors; and local control of autoimmune/inflammatory T and B cell responses.

To learn more about Dr. Randall's research, click here.

February Med School Café - 'Surgical Treatment of Seizures'

The February Med School Café lecture will feature Dr. Juan G. Ochoa, associate professor of neurology at the USA College of Medicine.

His lecture, titled “Surgical Treatment of Seizures,” will take place Feb. 28, 2013, at the USA Faculty Club on USA’s main campus. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m., and the presentation begins at noon.

Dr. Ochoa, who is the medical director for the epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU) at USA, will lecture on epilepsy, a disorder that results from the generation of electrical signals inside the brain, causing recurring seizures. Dr. Ochoa will provide the latest information on the causes of epilepsy as well as innovative care options, including surgical treatment.

The EMU, located at the USA Medical Center, is a collaborative environment that provides unique and highly specialized care with state-of-the-art technology for patients with epilepsy and other neurological conditions.

Dr. Ochoa received his medical degree from Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Columbia. He conducted his family practice residency at Jamaica Hospital in New York and his neurology residency at State University of New York. In addition, he completed a fellowship in clinical neurophysiology and epilepsy at Montefiore Hospital Medical Center in New York and a fellowship in medical education at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla.

The Med School Café lecture and lunch are provided free of charge, but reservations are required. For more information or to make reservations, please call Kim Partridge at (251) 460-7770 or e-mail

Med School Café is a free community lecture series sponsored by the USA Physicians Group. Each month, faculty from the USA College of Medicine share their expertise on a specific medical condition, providing insight on the latest treatment available.

Press-Register Features Dr. Phillip Fields

Following his diagnosis with leukemia, Dr. Phillip Fields, associate professor of cell biology and neuroscience at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, set a goal to run a marathon in every state.

Click here to read his story and see how he continues to inspire others facing cancer.