Delgado A-Z: X-ray Technologists

by: Hilton Guidry

If you’ve ever had an X-Ray in the New Orleans area, there is a good chance it was performed by a graduate of Delgado’s Radiologic Technology Program. Delgado was the first school in the state to offer  a  degree  “Rad Tech” Program in 1973 and it has become one of the more popular and successful programs at the College. No colleges were offering a degree level program before 1973, so people who were interested X-ray technology had to get their training at a hospital based radiology program to receive a certificate. In the early 1970s, an X-ray tech by the name of Harold Gaspard was working at a local hospital when a Delgado administrator came to the radiology department for services. The administrator enquired about the job and the necessary training and asked why Delgado didn’t offer it. Mr. Gaspard who was also the president of the New Orleans Society of Radiologic Technologists sent a letter of intent to Delgado and this encounter turned into a job offer. Mr. Gaspard became the director of the newly formed Radiologic Technology Program at Delgado in 1973.

First class to graduate in 1975; Harold Gaspard pictured top row far right.

The first class to graduate from the new program was in 1975. The graduating class of 1981 had a student named  Carleen Boudreaux who would later come back to the College in 1988 as an educator. “I had such a wonderful experience here as a student; I wanted to come back and teach,” said Boudreaux.  When Boudreaux was a student at the College in the late 70s and early 80s, students trained on CT scanners, which were relatively new at the time. The procedure could last several hours on each patient. That same procedure now takes   minutes. “Radiology changed quite a bit with computers being linked to X-ray equipment,” said Boudreaux. “Everything was captured on film. Now the image goes into a digital system and can been seen instantly on a computer screen. The main advantage of digital imaging is postprocessing. This means that the contrast, brightness and several other aspects of the image can be manipulated and changed without repeating the original exposure. Not only has this saved millions of dollars by reducing repeated procedures but it has dramatically reduced overall radiation exposure to the public as patients. It is the goal of medical radiography, to maximize diagnostic information while minimizing radiation exposure to the public. It is amazing to consider the progress that has been made since Wilhelm Roentgen discovered x-ray on November 8, 1895.”

Carleen Boudreaux has a nice collection of early X-ray equipment in her office. This is a portable X-ray unit that was donated from Hotel Dieu Hospital. It was dropped from a WWII airplane with a parachute attached to the medics so they could x-ray the troops
From Carleen Boudreaux's collection of donated artifacts from local hospitals. An x-ray tube circa 1930.
Students using radiology equipment in the energized digital X-ray classroom.

The program continued to grow in the late 1980s and in 1990 the Charity Hospital Rad Tech Program merged with Delgado to provide a more comprehensive program that could better meet the needs of the community and students. By the late 2000s the College used funding by a Carl Perkins Grant to upgrade radiology equipment, built two energized digital X-ray classrooms and purchased two anthropomorphic imaging phantoms.  “These phantoms are very useful because we can X-ray them over and over again and practice on them. You couldn’t do that with a real person because of the radiation hazard.” The phantoms are named “Damaged Debbie” and “Wounded Willie” by the manufacturer and actually came with birth certificates. When you X-ray them, their insides look just like if you were X-raying a person. The phantoms were customized with traumas the College selected.

Students practicing on "Wounded Willie" phantom.
Instructor Ty Delger addressing the classroom.
In 2010 Jill Biden visited the program in preparation for the White House Summit on Community Colleges and even mentioned Delgado’s Radiologic Technolgy program by name in her opening remarks to begin the summit. Carleen Boudreaux, who became program director in 2005, was able to give Biden a tour of the department and demonstrate the new equipment. The program also participates in state wide quiz bowl competitions and in 2012 came in second place. But one of the proudest achievements of the department is its pass rate for the national certification examination given by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Students achieved a pass rate of 100 percent with a mean score of 87.6 for 2012. The program celebrates a 100% pass rate since the first group tested in 1975.

Jill Biden meeting with students.
Ty Delger gives Jill Biden a demonstration of the newly acquired equipment.

Some of the graduates of the program include Rickie Ragan, M.S.R.T. ,Executive at GE Healthcare, class of 1981; John Gerhold, M.S.R.T., VP of Operations at Tulane-Lakeside Hospital, class of 1993; and recent graduate Daphny Davila, A.A.S.R.T.(R)(T). She graduated from Radiologic Technology in 2008 and Radiation Therapy 2010. Today she works as a radiation therapist at Ochsner Medical Center and as a radiographer at East Jefferson General Hospital.

Wall of graduates in the Rad Tech Department.
The Rad Tech Faculty:
Ty Delger,B.S.,R.T.(R)(MR) Assistant Professor
Sandy Laugharn, B.S.,R.T.(R) Associate Professor/Clinical Coordinator
Rebecca Mercer, B.A.S.,R.T.(R)(CT) Instructor
Carleen Boudreaux,M.S.,R.T.(R)(M) Professor/Program Director
Kim Mercadal,B.S.,R.T.(R), Associate Professor (not pictured)

 Like Carleen Boudreaux, another graduate, Robin Wegener (class of 1984), came back to Delgado to teach in 2008. Wegener is now the director of the Radiation Therapy Technology Program and is using a cutting edge virtual radiation system (VERT) to teach her students. The equipment utilizes 3D, motion detection, and surround sound to simulate radiation therapy. The College used Carl Perkins funds to purchase the equipment from a company in the U.K. and it is currently one of five being used in the U.S. “It’s hard for students to develop critical thinking skills because computers have taken over entire procedures. With this equipment, students can use this tool to practice in the virtual world,” said Wegner.

Robin Wegener using the VERT system.
Training Video on the VERT system.

As Delgado continues to grow as a College, especially in the fields of nursing, radiologic technology, and other allied health programs, you can’t help but think back in time when the founder of the school, Isaac Delgado, made the Delgado Memorial Charity Hospital one of his “gifts” to the city of New Orleans. People like Carleen Boudreaux and current Dean of Allied Heath Harold Gaspard (yes, the same Harold Gaspard who left his job as an X-ray technologists to help start the rad tech program in 1972) truly understand the connection between the health care industry and Delgado Community College and can appreciate what a “gift” this College has been to the city’s health care community.

One of the earliest X-rays from Charity Hospital. Can you see the bullet lodged in the foot?
Another picture from Carleen Boudreaux's collection of old Charity Hospital photos.

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