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2101 E. Coliseum Blvd.
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805
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Cheryl Duncan

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Cheryl Duncan

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X-RAY VISION

Assuming that radiology and its associated technologies are as transparent as the X-rays they produce is far from accurate.

IPFW Chair of Medical Imaging and Radiologic Sciences and Clinical Assistant Professor Cheryl Duncan teaches students about radiological physics and image acquisition for the program—and has been for 20 years.

“With the challenge of instilling in students the idea that radiation protection is their responsibility, I am faced with the challenge of showing them how these invisible concepts of X-ray photo energy and the interactions of X-ray photons matter,” Duncan says. “How those invisible ideas impact what we’re going to end up with on the image and how they’re going to impact the radiation that a patient or anyone else in the room will receive—my challenge is trying to make those concepts visible for the students.”

LOCATING THE CAUSE

Duncan began her teaching career two decades ago at Parkview Hospital. Parkview transitioned the program to IPFW in 2010 and she opted to follow suit.

“The program has changed in a lot of ways and hasn’t changed a lot of other ways,” she says. “We have a bit of a different focus here on our development of faculty. We have more resources available for that. We are able to connect throughout the state and across the nation. It’s brought some different opportunities for faculty, which brings with it different opportunities for the students.”

IPFW supports its radiology program in a number of ways, but its largest contribution has been the lab space, according to Duncan. The resources and support the university has contributed to nurturing the program has allowed it to grow over the last few years—so much so that it’s now in the process of transitioning from an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree.

This transition will allow the program to grow even more. It will expand the opportunities for our graduates.

“This transition will allow the program to grow even more,” Duncan says. “It will expand the opportunities for our graduates. We’re a growing field and we’re already sort of an overgrown associate degree. We have all this technology and all these advancements and changes in our field that we keep adding to the curriculum without taking anything out. It will really help our students to have a little more breathing room as they go through the program and it will also allow them the opportunity to explore some of the specialty areas in greater depth.

“It will open some doors for them, career-wise. If they want to move into management or go on to pursue a master’s degree, they will already have that baccalaureate degree completed. The degree transition is one of the things I’m most looking forward to because I’ll get to work with students on my content area and some projects related to it. I’m really looking forward to that opportunity.”

BENEATH THE SURFACE

Duncan’s courses focus on radiation physics involved with image production and evaluation and quality of the images produced. They also focus on X-ray production and X-ray interaction with scanned matter.

Duncan’s courses focus on radiation physics involved with image production and evaluation and quality of the images produced. They also focus on X-ray production and X-ray interaction with scanned matter.

“We’re preparing students for a career in medical imaging, specifically radiography—to be the individuals who take all the X-ray images,” she explains. “They could go into CT or MRI or other imaging modalities as well. Our students work with a lot of different clinical sites—many of them at Parkview, which we have a close affiliation with. They also do clinical rotations through St. Joe, Fort Wayne Orthopedics, and other local out-patient clinics.”

As soon as students start their clinical rotations they begin working alongside the technologists and performing procedures on patients. They’re taught these procedures in the lab on campus and—while they’re not actually taking X-rays yet—the students practice the positioning techniques, which they carry directly into their clinical work. Having the lab equipment and space on campus allows Duncan to bring the technology students will eventually be using in their careers into the classroom.

“While I’m lecturing, I can walk into the lab that’s connected to our classroom and show our students how scatter radiation actually impacts the room and how it will impact an image,” she says. “We have the technology to take images on phantoms in our room, process and look at the images, and then compare the radiation that was scattered and absorbed to the radiation that was transmitted.”

LOWERING THE OPACITY

Duncan believes that her students prefer a hands-on approach to the course material—which can be difficult to provide with content based mostly on the nonconcrete aspects of the science.

When I can walk into the classroom and pull that technology in as well as allow the students some hands-on experience, it really makes the difference.

“I think our field is very hands-on to begin with, but the content that I teach—again—is a little more abstract,” she says. “The physics of atomic structure and what’s happening with the photons and with X-rays is harder to grasp. When I can walk into the classroom and pull that technology in as well as allow the students some hands-on experience, it really makes the difference.”

Students come in at all different levels, according to Duncan, but the application process for the program is thorough—regardless of their starting point, students are prepared and motivated. The department looks at GPA, math and science grades, and pre-admission tests when sifting through applications. Duncan spends a sizable amount of time reviewing atomic structure and other basics so those concepts can then be applied to what students will learn about radiation.

“My focus is on safety and quality,” she says. “I want to make sure that when students graduate from our program—when they leave my classes—that they really understand the concepts they learn. However, I’m most proud of my students’ success. Our students graduate from the program and sit for a national registry exam. On that exam, our students score on average higher than the national average—that helps me to know that my methods of teaching are effective.”

Medical Imaging and Radiologic Sciences graduates are in high demand with area employers and across the nation. While most of the department’s graduates stay in the Fort Wayne area or within the region, the field opens a huge selection of doors for students.

“I think this program impacts the community in several ways,” Duncan says. “When our students are able to be in the clinical setting it keeps the technologists who are working with them and their departments on their toes. They have to answer questions that students are bringing them and they have to remember the concepts they learned in school. We have to keep learning as we practice.”


Department of Medical Imaging and Radiologic Sciences

Take a look inside one of the fastest evolving professions in healthcare. In the Department of Medical Imaging and Radiologic Sciences, medical and physical science come together for the purpose of medical diagnosis and treatment. Work alongside a radiologic technologist to apply what you’ve learned in class as well as the skills you’ve demonstrated in our lab. You’ll learn in a “high-tech, high touch” environment using state-of-the-art technology with a focus on communication and other critical soft skills. We graduate radiographers who can choose career paths like diagnostic imaging, special imaging modalities (mammography, CT, or MRI), management, education, and more. Learn more.