Fifteen feet long, seven feet high, weighing more than 7,000 pounds, and costing a quarter-million dollars.
Talk about your elephant in the room, except that nobody was ignoring it. Indeed, the new Siemens Symbia Evo gamma camera on display in the Nuclear Medicine Program classroom was the star of the show at a TCC Trinity River East open house on Sept. 28.
The device is the crown jewel of TCC’s Nuclear Medicine Technology program, which is one of four such programs in Texas and the only one in North Texas based on a campus.
Unlike traditional X-ray imaging, the camera employs a radioactive substance, but the substance is placed inside the patient’s body rather than in an external mechanism. The gamma camera rotates around the patient, detecting photons emitted from the patient and converting them into multiple images much like a computerized tomography, or CT, scan.
Software takes the images and creates a landscape view that helps physicians know where and how large a cancer might be. In some instances, the camera is also a therapeutic tool in that another type of radioactive material can be guided to the site to effect a cure.
Siemens is happy to be in partnership with TCC, said company representative Jennifer Schmitt, “These students will start in their careers having an appreciation for that kind of technology and level of image quality. And as they move into positions of decision-makers, they would already have a real relationship and knowledge of Siemen’s products, she said.
No radioactive substances will actually be employed in TCC’s lab, but students in their first year will wear protective gear as if it were present and will position substitutes called “phantoms” instead. The students will thus be ready for their second year, during which they will work in clinical settings with radioactive elements and actual patients.
The camera arrived last April but was ready for student use only this fall semester — too late for last year’s cohort, much to their chagrin. “I really do wish we had had it because it’s such a great resource to learn the hands-on stuff you will use in a clinical setting,” said student Jemina Velazquez. “It will definitely put this semester’s first years ahead just because they will have the hands-on experience and be more comfortable when they get to their clinical sites next year.”
“This, in itself, puts the Nuclear Medicine program at TCC above the others in Texas and allows the students to excel in all aspects of patient imaging,” said Bobby Ortega of Harris Methodist Fort Worth, chair of the program’s advisory committee. “I am very proud to have been a part of TCC and the Nuclear Medicine Program since its infancy. ‘Success Within Reach’ fully expresses TCC’s commitment to its students and the community.”
Acquisition of the gamma camera has long-term ramifications not only for the educational program and its students but also for the people of Tarrant County and the surrounding area, Schmitt said. “This means that they will have a program that is producing quality technologists who are ready to go out into the field and start caring for others,” she said. “It should give us all peace of mind in that, should we end up in a hospital and need these services, there are qualified technologists to take care of us and see that that we get good patient care.”