Sharlette Anderson, MHS, RDMS, RVT, RDCS
MIRS Alumni Spotlight
Describe your career and current position, role and responsibilities.
I’m currently an Associate Clinical Professor/Clinical Coordinator with the University of Missouri Diagnostic Medical Ultrasound (DMU) Program. I joined the faculty here in 2007. I teach multiple courses each semester and work with a colleague to oversee the clinical experiences for the general ultrasound rotations within our program. I teach a series of writing intensive courses that guide students through a multi-semester research project where students work together or individually to develop a research question, design a study to answer the question(s), gain IRB approval for the study, conduct the study, and communicate the results in a product that is entered in the SDMS student research competitions as either a W. Frederic Sample paper or a poster. I’m also working to complete my PhD in Learning Technology.
Describe your personal life, family, hobbies, and interests.
I don’t have a lot of personal life at the moment (thank you PhD process). When I do break away, I spend time with family. I also volunteer with the Life Network of Central Missouri/MyLife Clinic in Columbia, MO. I’m currently conducting a training program to help nurses/medical volunteers at pregnancy resource centers throughout Missouri gain the foundation, knowledge, and skills needed to provide limited OB ultrasound to their clients. I’m a long-time volunteer with ARDMS and SDMS as well. In my free time, I enjoy books, horses, fishing, and about anything that involves being outdoors.
What are you most proud of professionally and personally?
Professionally, I’m most proud of the quality sonographers who I’ve helped to educate. We have alumni who are leaders in their areas, who work in large research centers, and who have also become teachers in other programs. Most of all, I’m proud of the excellent patient care our graduates provide and of their ability to go beyond the basics of performing competent sonographic exams and really make a difference in the lives of their patients. I’m grateful for the education I received from Jean Lea Spitz and Kari Boyce and for the opportunity to continue that work with another generation of sonographers. Personally, I’m certainly the proudest of my family. My children are all successful, loving humans who work to make things better for those around them. My son, JoeRyan, graduated from the Mizzou DMU program in December, 2018, and is a successful all around sonographer practicing as a cardiovascular sonographer in Washington, MO and also on some weekends as a general sonographer at St Louis University Hospital where he really enjoys working with organ transplant patients. I’m delighted that one of my three children has the same passion for sonography as I do. My daughters are amazing, strong women and I’m grateful for their Dad who has helped to make them that way. Additionally, I have a 2-year-old granddaughter who is the light of my life.
How has your education from the Department of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences (formally Radiologic Technology) impacted your career?
My education at OUHSC in the Sonography program opened many doors for me and provided me with the tools I needed to do anything I wish as a sonographer. I’ve worked in rural hospitals, large urban hospitals, been a traveling sonographer, and worked in an oncology hospital before becoming a full time educator. I have experience in all major areas of sonography which gives me loads of flexibility when it comes to my career. I had two of the greatest mentors in our field as instructors at OU. Jean Lea Spitz is a true sonography pioneer and taught me about compassion and empathy as much as she did about OB sonography. Kari Boyce made physics relevant and managed to get me interested in echocardiography before harmonic imaging existed. She also taught me the value of perseverance and the importance of providing support to those who need it. I still use Kari’s Sonographers SSALT to teach students how to characterize/describe what they see on sonographic images.
Describe a special memory from when you were a student in the program.
It’s so difficult to choose a specific memory from my sonography student days. I remember learning how to make slides from sonography films for case presentations. I remember Dr. Theandrew Claiborne using multiple transparency sheets to demonstrate the theoretical proof of a physics equation. I remember multiple experiences at my clinical sites where the preceptors were so supportive of our learning. My best memories are of facial expressions and mannerisms used by Jean and Kari as they taught. They did such a good job of communicating their passion for the sonography profession and for supporting our success. They are both the greatest inspiration for my teaching style and why I even teach. If I can live up to their standards and support student success the way they did for me, I’ve accomplished a great deal. That’s a high bar, but worth the reach.
What would you like prospective students to know before they select a career in your profession &/or any healthcare career?
There are so many things students need to know. Here are my top four:
Your choices follow you and can limit your opportunities in the future. While you’re having fun as a college undergraduate, keep your overall goal in mind. Don’t make silly decisions that can interfere with your ability to reach that goal.
Do field observation/job shadowing for any career that seems interesting to you. It’s so important to have real knowledge of what it means to be a member of a specific profession before you invest all the time, effort, and money into the education for that career. Make sure that you can really see yourself practicing in that profession for 30 years. Shadow multiple people doing all aspects of the career so that you can make the most informed decision possible.
Sonographers are not photographers! This profession requires a commitment to analysis and figuring out answers. Regardless of our scope of practice, if you don’t see and recognize things, you won’t document them and then nobody will know they are there. You will always have more information than anyone just looking at the still images. Part of your job is to be able to communicate the patient’s story to the interpreting physician in a way that helps them see the context as well as the image. Even a clip can’t tell the whole story. You must be able to analyze what you see and communicate it clearly to the appropriate people. In the words of Dr. Ted Lyons, our job is to “Answer the clinical question”, not just take a series of images without thinking about how they fit into the clinical picture and the patient’s story.
We are all members of a healthcare team. We all need to work together to achieve the best possible patient outcome. It’s so important to have at least a basic knowledge of what other healthcare professionals do and how their job fits, along with ours, into the bigger picture. Mutual respect is critical to improving patient care.
Given what you know now, is there anything you would do differently if you were just starting your healthcare career?
I would be more aware of ergonomics and how to avoid hurting myself. That being said, nobody really knew about ergonomics in the ‘80s and our entire focus was on doing whatever it took to get the best image possible, including equipment design. Technology is so much better now than it was then. We can get so much more information with less physical effort. I don’t think I would change anything else, really, other than trying to be more aware of opportunities to serve abroad as a medical volunteer.
Is there anything else you want us to know about yourself?
Who I am as a sonographer and as a person is a product of my experiences at OU. I’ll always be grateful to the role models I had there, in and out of the sonography program, for the quality education and mentorship I was provided and continue to enjoy. I wish that all sonographers had the benefit of the excellent undergraduate education and experiences I received.