In her native Iran, Sepanta Shamel saw patients every day as a pediatrician. When she came to America four years ago, she wanted a new career that was just as rewarding. She started anew by attending the Harris County Hospital District’s School of Diagnostic Medical Imaging and is about to embark on her second career as a sonographer.
She, along with 56 others, recently graduated from the hospital-based school, marking its 20th graduating class. The school was created in 1993 to supply the Harris County Hospital District with an available pool of diagnostic medical imaging professionals.
The unique program offers students the valuable opportunity to train using leading-edge technology, and to learn from expert physicians affiliated with The University of Texas Medical School (UTHealth) at Houston and Baylor College of Medicine.
While this was Shamel’s first time to graduate from the school, it was fellow graduate Anh Dang’s second time. Dang graduated from the school’s radiography program two years ago and with the encouragement of the school’s staff, continued her education and graduated from the sonography program.
Donning black caps and gowns, graduates listened to remarks by Cleveland Black, PhD, administrative director, Education, Harris County Hospital District and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who delivered the commencement address, just as she did at the school’s first commencement almost two decades ago.
“Today is a special day for you and your family members. I am grateful we live in a nation that has given you all the opportunity to pursue interests such as this. Today, we celebrate your accomplishments,” Jackson Lee said.
During the school’s 22-year history, it has added new programs. Today, it has four: diagnostic medical radiography, diagnostic medical sonography, computerized topography (CT) graduate fellowship and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) graduate fellowship.
After successfully completing the programs, graduates are prepared to work in various medical settings like hospital, clinic or private practice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the diagnostic medical imaging field has a growth rate of 20 percent or better through 2020, and is considered one of the most in demand.
To date, 413 students have graduated from the Harris County Hospital District’s School of Diagnostic Medical Imaging. While many find employment within the system they were trained — ultimate the goal of the school — others find employment throughout the Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest complex with healthcare institutions, research and schools.