August Sonographer of the Month- Ashwin Venkateshvaran, PhD, RCS, RDCS, FASE

By Natalya Read posted 08-04-2017 09:18


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When and how did you get involved with cardiovascular ultrasound?

In 2000, when I had just completed my graduate studies, my spiritual and humanitarian mentor invited me to join a tertiary-care hospital he was setting up in Bangalore to serve the poor. The idea of a facility offering cardiac surgery without a billing section inspired me, and I began my career here as a cardiac sonographer, scanning hundreds of patients unsupported by social security or insurance protection. Subsequent opportunities to set up a sonographer school at the same institute and to pursue research at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have contributed to a fuller experience in this field.

I like to tell people that my association with echocardiography can be compared with an Indian ‘’arranged’’ wedding. I got married first, and fell in love later. Every time I pick up an echo probe these days, I thank my stars that this marriage has worked.

What is the name and type of facility/institution at which you work, and what is your current position?

I currently have two active professional roles. I work at the Karolinska University Hospital as a research sonographer and at the Karolinska Institute as a post-doctoral scientist. The Karolinska Institute in Sweden ranks among Europe’s leading medical universities and provides an active clinical environment to pursue medical research. In a sense, working in the land that gave us Inge Edler also has me share a slice of echo history.

When and how did you get involved with the ASE?

I got involved during the ASE Foundation humanitarian mission to India in 2014 led by David Adams and Partho Sengupta. At that time, I was the manager of the department of cardiology at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, the ‘’home base’’ for this mission. ASEF volunteers worked hand-in-hand with our cardiologists to examine over 250 patients with rheumatic heart disease and educate physicians on-site and via web-streaming. Dr. Srikanth Sola, Consultant Cardiologist, and I worked with the local team and industry partners to support the success of this mission. Like in most ASEF missions, we were witness to a delightful ‘’ripple effect’’ that opened new vistas for collaboration between American and Indian sonographers in time. On a more personal note, it also had me discover outstanding mentors in senior ASE sonographers David Adams and Bharat Patel.

Why do you volunteer for ASE?

I believe that we grow when we share. Volunteering for ASE helps me contribute to our collective knowledge which ultimately benefits some patient I may never meet. Echocardiography is too precious to be kept to oneself.

What is your current role within ASE? In the past, on what other committees, councils or task forces have you served and what have you done with the local echo society?

Apart from being an ASE member for many years and a contributor to an ongoing guideline writing exercise, I don’t have many formal roles on display. However, I have worked to promote sonographers in India with the support of ASE physician champions such as Satish Govind, Nitin Burkule, Srikanth Sola, Manish Bansal and Shantanu Sengupta. The sonographer community back home is much stronger now than it was a few years ago. Today, we have a formal sonographer identity, dedicated educational tracks during the annual society meeting, and will soon be introducing a sonographer page in the official national echo journal.

What is your advice for members who want to become more involved in their profession or with the ASE?

Echocardiography is all heart!  Few professions can keep your hands busy, your mind ticking and raise your spirit all at once. I still struggle to describe echocardiography as a science or an art form, given its ability to educate and inspire me at once. A sonographer’s life can be challenging at times, but with challenge comes growth and learning, and many stories to share with your kids about how the lives of your patients changed yours.

The ASE has extraordinary mentors who want nothing but to see you succeed. They give freely and easily, only to infect you with a desire to share what you have with someone else. You’ll find colleagues and friends who fast become an extended ‘’echo family’’ when you step in. Don’t hesitate to get more involved with the ASE. It brings out your best.

What is your vision for the future of cardiovascular sonography?

After 16 years in the profession, I still feel I am too young to offer a vision, but can say that I am constantly surprised by advances in the field, and struggle to keep pace. If the last couple of decades in 3D imaging, myocardial mechanics, contrast and interventional echocardiography are anything to go by, the future looks glorious.

But at the very heart of the matter, one must not forget that extraordinary things are possible when great technology is available to individuals eager to make a difference.