Duke PA Students Take the Lead in Organizing Multi-School Point-of-Care Ultrasound Competition


When Katherine Bullock, Helen Gaynes, and Emily McEnerey from the class of 2023 founded the student-led Point-of-Care Ultrasound Society (POCUS) in 2022, their mission was to provide teaching skills for second-year Duke PA Program students and early exposure to POCUS skills to the first-year students.

Upon their graduation, they passed the baton to Alex Filiput, Josh Sullivan, PJ Kambhiranond, and Jessie Michael from the class of 2024, along with the idea of a POCUS competition between North Carolina PA schools.

Filiput, Sullivan, Kambhiranond, and Michael brought that vision to life earlier this month.

The team spent months reaching out to PA programs, facilitators, and volunteers. They contacted all 12 of the North Carolina PA programs and generated a lot of interest. Ultimately, four schools participated: Elon, Wake Forest, Methodist, and Duke. They also found several critical care practitioners to facilitate, and non-competing Duke students served as the ‘patients’ to be scanned.

The event took place in Durham at the Stead Center, headquarters of the North Carolina Academy of PAs (NCAPA).

Caroline Purdy and the staff at NCAPA were incredible with allowing us to host the event at the Stead Center,” Filiput said. “And she made the whole process so simple by helping us figure out the best ways to set up exam tables and utilize the space.  They were so supportive of our students, and we loved having the chance to work alongside them to plan a fun and educational event.”

They modeled the event after the iScan competition, which is hosted by the Society of Point of Care Ultrasound annually during the American Academy of PAs (AAPA) conference.

We loved competing at iScan at AAPA so much that we thought it would be fun to organize one with other schools locally,” Sullivan explained. “We also all recognize the growing importance of point-of-care ultrasound skills in clinical practice, and we wanted to give people more opportunities to hone those skills in a fun, structured competition.” 

The event featured five stations where teams were quizzed on different aspects of ultrasound knowledge. Each team had 15 minutes per station, allowing enough time for both the competition questions and scanning practice guided by station facilitators.

“Our facilitators went above and beyond and spoke to students about real-life applications of these scans, and some even brought in supplemental materials and images to show students what pathological findings look like,” Filliput said.

One change they made from the AAPA competition was the addition of the ability to “phone a friend” twice. This reduced the pressure of competition and ensured students could learn and enjoy the event without the expectation of knowing every answer.

Though the team of Duke first-year students took home first prize, winning was secondary to the experience.

L: Alex Filiput and Josh Sullivan with members of the Elon team. R: Ella Lundquist, Jacqui Foley, Megan Sippy, Katie Wierenga, Tati Lim
L: Alex Filiput and Josh Sullivan with members of the Elon team. R: Ella Lundquist, Jacqui Foley, Megan Sippy, Katie Wierenga, Tati Lim

While, yes, it was a ‘competition,’ we all recognize that more than anything else, it was an opportunity to learn and practice ultrasound while meeting students from other programs,” Sullivan said.

The day was designed to be low-stress.  While there was some stress in the lead-up, Filiput and Sullivan said it was smooth sailing once things got underway.

It was really fun to see how excited students were during the event, with teams high-fiving and celebrating when they worked through questions and successfully obtained images,” Filiput said.

They hope that this will become an annual event and envision bringing in other health professions to make it interprofessional.

“It felt very special to be able to start something new at Duke and leave our mark, and hopefully in following years the student leadership will be able to continue events such as these and bring together the future health professionals of North Carolina," Filiput said. Ideally, we can continue to expand and include NP and MD students to turn this into a truly interdisciplinary event and give students a chance to learn more about their future colleagues and how we all can utilize these techniques to support our clinical practice.”



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