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July 2018 Sonographer Volunteer of the Month- Kristen Billick, BS, ACS, RDCS, FASE

By Natalya Read posted 07-02-2018 08:06


Kristen_Billick_.jpgWhen and how did you get involved with cardiovascular ultrasound?

My previous boss used to tell me I was born with a probe in my hand, and I would have to say I agree! I followed in the footsteps of my mother. She was a general/cardiac/vascular sonographer for over 40 years (although her 1982 fetal self-ultrasound labeled me as a boy…. but hey, ultrasound has come a long way since then!). I spent much of my youth in the sonographers’ lounge, while my mom was in on-call, coloring pictures for the radiologists and filling all the gel bottles. At age 15, I became a hospital volunteer, and then when I could actually work I got a job in the radiology file room (back when we had film and dark rooms).

I loved being in the healthcare setting and it was clear to me that I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to help patients. Since I had been around the ultrasound field my entire life, it was an easy choice for me to pursue cardiac ultrasound. I went straight into the echo program after high school and have been growing my career in cardiac ultrasound for the past 15 years.

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

I work at Scripps Clinic/La Jolla Memorial Hospital, which is a teaching clinic/hospital in the San Diego area.  I am the Educator/Lead Sonographer of a large (40 sonographer) echo lab. I have multiple roles, but mainly I am responsible for education, quality assurance and quality improvement.

When and how did you get involved with the ASE?

I initially joined ASE to get JASE. I loved reading and learning from the journals! Because of the type of work I do at Scripps Clinic, I was encouraged by my boss (Sandy Hagen-Ansert) and Medical Director (Dr. David Rubenson) to apply for FASE recognition. Having excellent mentors helped me navigate through which career path to travel. They guided me towards becoming more involved with ASE. I was recently accepted onto two ASE committees and I’m excited to become more engaged with the society. I would love to get even more involved in ASE, with the goals of one day becoming a speaker at a Scientific Sessions meeting and also one day contributing to an ASE global mission!

Why do you volunteer for ASE?

I’m very passionate about echocardiography and I’m very passionate about volunteering, so mixing the two is a perfect combination for me! I’ve dedicated my career to cardiac ultrasound so it seems natural to give some of my extra time to the field that I love and work in. Additionally, ASE has done countless great things to grow and strengthen the field of cardiac ultrasound, which directly affects us all. If ASE is investing in me, I want to invest in them too.

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?

I’m currently serving on the Foundation Annual Appeal Committee and on the Sonographer Council Steering Committee. This is my first time serving on any of the ASE committees so I am excited to contribute! I have also been co-organizing the San Diego Society of Echo for the past 2+ years.

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

Rely on yourself to grow your own career path. If you’re early in your career, seek out good mentors who will take you under their wing. Make every effort to plant yourself in institutions that value quality and education. Attend your local echo society meetings and local conferences. Networking is huge – introduce yourself to other sonographers and physicians at conferences, connect online (Connect@ASE, LinkedIn, Facebook). VOLUNTEER! See what volunteer opportunities there are in your community. You may be able to help with your local echo society or be a sonographer for local youth cardiac screenings. There are tons of opportunities through ASE, from global missions to councils and committees. See what opportunities ASE has for you and sign up!

Wherever you are in your career, I think it is important to never stop learning. Go to conferences, read cardiology journals, pursue higher education, etc. The field of cardiac ultrasound is growing so fast, if you don’t keep up, you’ll fall behind. I also think it’s great to pick things that interest you and delve into them so that you are the Champion in your lab for those things (i.e. 3D, strain, congenital, structural heart intervention, research).

Lastly, become a mentor to someone else. When you teach others, you often reeducate yourself on different pathologies or imaging techniques so that you can pass on correct information. I’ve gained so much personal knowledge while teaching others.

What is your vision for the future of cardiovascular sonography?

I find the future of cardiac ultrasound to be fascinating! I love structural heart intervention imaging and I think it’s such a large and exciting part of our future. Cardiac ultrasound plays an important role in imaging during the screening, intraprocedural and follow up processes. It is so exiting to be involved with the new interventional procedures coming out. We get to be part of a huge change in medicine which will help so many people which is awesome!