Tech donation deepens longtime connection to Parkland College

A career in healthcare always interested Lauren Hunt, so the Clinton High School graduate opted to study a healthcare area she finds especially intriguing: Radiology.

"It's amazing because you get to see inside people," she said.

Hunt's studies paid off. The 2017 Parkland College graduate, having learned and worked at Carle while pursuing her degree, landed a position in Carle's X-ray department.
This fall, Parkland College Radiologic Technology students following in Hunt's footsteps will learn and practice on upgraded X-ray machines that closely mirror what they can expect to use with patients after graduation. Carle recently donated the equipment as part of its ongoing collaboration with the Champaign community college to develop skilled, caring health professionals who can assist patients in any healthcare setting.

When Carle opened its new Orthopedic and Sports Medicine facility earlier this year, it installed new X-ray equipment, prompting the donation of its 2006 and 2008 General Electric Healthcare Definium 8000 models to Parkland.

Updating Parkland's radiology equipment from cassette to digital means more power and less radiation exposure, or, as Hunt described it, the donated machines "use less juice to get an image."

"It's really important for radiology students to use technology that's as up to date as fiscally possible," explained Kelly Oppe, Carle director of Radiology, adding new equipment costs, conservatively, around $250,000.

This donation bolsters the longstanding partnership between Carle and Parkland College, one that includes real-world, onsite clinical training for students, according to Bobbi Scholze, dean of Parkland College's Career and Technical Education division (formerly of Health Professions).

"Carle's level of support to all our Health Professions programs is unprecedented," Scholze said. "Both Carle and Parkland College are in the business of providing our community with experienced, highly skilled healthcare professionals, and this amazing donation will benefit our Radiology students — and ultimately, our area's patients — for years to come." 

Travis Taylor, imaging manager at Carle, agrees both institutions benefit from the partnership.

"Students gain current information when they train at Carle because of the variety of patients we care for and the level of equipment we use, plus they gain the critical-thinking skills essential for providing the best possible care," he said.

"We partner with Parkland so students finish the program ready to work."

Parkland Radiology program graduate Todd Keller, who works mostly in Carle's Emergency Department, also explained how important it is to gain real-world experience in his and Hunt's field.

"It's so hand-on. All the repetition creates important muscle memory," said Keller, who completed Parkland’s program in 2014. He added these automatic actions now allow him to devote more time and energy to interacting with his patients. 

"To us, patients are never a number. It's not like, 'Been there, done that.'"