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UC Irvine's innovative Ultrasound in Medical Education program came about because of the success of a fourth-year elective: emergency ultrasound. More than 500 medical students at UC Irvine's School of Medicine have spent four weeks learning the skills of bedside ultrasound since 2003.

The resulting feedback and life-saving stories that emerged from this training gave rise to the idea that all students should take advantage of this valuable program prior to graduation.

When the concept of the four-year integrated curriculum was in a primordial form, Kevin Goodwin, president and CEO of SonoSite, Inc., a leader in hand-carried and mountable ultrasound, became interested in the program and generously committed enough equipment so that each student could take advantage of this learning opportunity.

Meanwhile, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) was heavily promoting active learning as the core of medical education. The associate deans of the curriculum, the senior associate dean of education and Dean Ralph Clayman envisioned utilizing ultrasound to enhance the teaching of anatomy, physiology and physical exam skills to medical students. 

As the curriculum has evolved, so has the "extra"curriculum. Students started an ultrasound interest group with guest lecturers and hands-on sessions. They created a pre-clinical elective aimed at training a second-year student to be an instructor for first-year students. A quarterly journal club developed, with articles chosen by medical students and moderated by ultrasound fellows.

In addition, ultrasound workshops are now held at the annual student/faculty retreat, for meetings of the emergency medicine interest group, Latino medical student association and during Thursday lunchtime scan sessions.

The fourth-year emergency ultrasound elective - the thing that started it all - has now evolved into various specialties, including primary care.