January 2019 Sonographer Volunteer of the Month: Steve Walling, RCS, RDCS, FASE

By Natalya Read posted 01-03-2019 09:53


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

I began echo school at the Hoffman Heart and Vascular Institute in Hartford, CT October of 2008, but echocardiography was never really something I thought I would be doing as my career. In 2005 I completed my bachelors in exercise science from Springfield College in Massachusetts.  During my first class at Springfield, we learned how to take blood pressures which brought me to the cardiologist.  My blood pressure was 190/100 and apparently, I had a lot of PVC’s. An echo and a cardiac MRI ruled out ARVD and I was fine.  I remember thinking how interesting the echo was, but was not exactly sure what I was observing. Little did I know that ultrasound would be my destined career.  My family also has some significant cardiac history. My mom wouldn’t be here today if her cardiologist didn’t ask for an echo due to hypertension.  That single echo found an ascending aortic aneurysm which was eventually operated on a couple of years later. 

My first job out of college was working in corporate fitness as a personal trainer and instructor.  I enjoyed the face-to-face interaction and encouraging others to live a healthier lifestyle, but after 2 years and barely making a dent in my student loans, I knew I needed a greater challenge.  Fortunately, someone I met through corporate fitness knew I was looking for a new career and told me about an echocardiography school at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT where she worked in Cardiac Rehab.  With my family history and exposure to echo it was an easy decision to apply for the echo program and I was accepted. I was lucky to have fallen into the field of echocardiography, but as a believer that everything happens for a reason, it worked out perfectly for me.    

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

Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, CT is a teaching institution where I am currently the Lead Echocardiographer. As the lead I am in charge of all operations in the echo lab and continue to scan every day.  That said, educating is truly my passion.  I am a clinical instructor as well as an assistant educator for the Hoffman Heart and the School of Cardiac Ultrasound. I conducted research and have taught a course at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science as an adjunct faculty member.   In addition to the echo school and outside classroom instruction I am involved in hands-on training and instruction for the cardiology fellows at the University of Connecticut. Although I have become knowledgeable in many areas such as 3D, strain, structural heart, etc. I am always looking to learn more.  If I am not doing an echo, TEE, TAVR, Stress Echo, or any other exam myself you will usually find me teaching a sonographer, fellow, or physician something related to echocardiography.

When and how did you get involved with the ASE? 

My very first exposure to the ASE was when I volunteered at the ASE Scientific Session in Toronto in 2008 as a student helping out with morning session registration.  It was a great experience and just being a part of the meeting really confirmed that I made the right choice going into the field of echocardiography.   After working for a couple of years, my teacher and mentor, Richie Palma, encouraged me to apply for my FASE. That really opened up other doors for me with the ASE as I became a part of the Guidelines Committee shortly after and continue to meet more amazing people along the way.  

Why do you volunteer for ASE? 

Volunteering for the ASE has been an extremely important part in my career growth.  Not only have I made contacts with sonographers and physicians from all over, but I have learned so much along the way.  The more I challenge myself, the more I learn and the beauty of echocardiography is that there is always something to learn. I volunteer for the ASE not only to increase my knowledge as a sonographer, but with hopes to spread what I learn with others.   I would like to continue to become involved with the ASE and would recommend anyone do the same.

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? 

Currently I am on the ASE Training and Certification Committee and was fortunate to work on the ASE’s 2nd Edition of the Proper Echocardiographic Measurements: How and Why, which was just released at the Nashville Scientific Session.  I have been a Fellow of the American Society of Echocardiography for 5 years now and as stated above, I was on the Guidelines Committee from 2015-1017 and have been to the ASE Scientific Sessions almost every year since becoming a sonographer.  I have presented and chaired a couple of sessions at the Scientific Sessions over the years. At our local echo society, I have lectured multiple times and continue to help mentor our sonographers and students to do the same.    

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

My advice to anyone who wants to become more involved is to reach out and use the tools the ASE offers (ASE connect, Facebook, mentorship program, etc.). I was fortunate enough to have a teacher and mentor in Richie Palma to help me along the way, but opportunities are out there, you just have to look for them.  Anything you can do to help educate others or yourself, only benefits the patients, which is what makes our job so special.  Get involved in a local echo society as it’s a great way to meet fellow sonographers in the area. I encourage the students and sonographers to ask questions and expose yourself to new techniques in echocardiography.  

What is your vision for the future of cardiovascular sonography? 

With the rapid growth and advancements in structural heart procedures, I see echo becoming an integral part of cardiac procedures in the OR.  Three-Dimensional echocardiography is a necessity for many of these intraoperative procedures and will only increase as more procedures become available. There are so many diagnoses out there where echocardiography is critical in patient management and outcomes for more diseases. As that continues to grow, we need to make sure we are all comfortable with all of the advanced echo techniques.