“Medicine and lab work have and will always be passions for me,” says Ellen Hughes ’13. Recently, she got an inside look at both areas—while helping to author an article about the tools that doctors use to analyze patients’ hearts.
Hughes (Mountain Top, Pa.), a double major in biology and French, was co-author of the article “Dose Reduction With Coronary CTA,” which appeared in the September/October edition of Radiologic Technology. The other authors were cardiologist William B. Calhoun and Karon Crowley, a computed tomography technologist. Hughes worked with Calhoun in Tupelo, Miss., to complete her portion of the article and to go backstage on a variety of medical procedures.
The topic of the article was CT scanning, a procedure that is similar to an X-ray, except that it allows for the imaging of soft tissues, like the heart. The problem with CT scanning, however, is that it requires the use of radiation, which, according to the article, is linked to cancer risks.
“This article demonstrates the importance of decreasing radiation amounts in CT scans to correspond with body mass index,” Hughes says.
Her job was to work with five years’ worth of data to create the graphs for the article, which demonstrated that the use of radiation has, in fact, decreased during CT scans in recent years. She was fit for the job because she was familiar with the necessary software, having used it for some of her chemistry courses at Lafayette.
As someone considering going into medicine, Hughes benefited from her experience at the hospital, where she had the opportunity to observe various medical procedures.
“I also spent a day behind the scenes of the CT scanner and got to see the images and why radiation is so important for scans,” she says. “Everyone that I talked to was so friendly and willing to teach me.”