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Free 3D ultrasound offers rewarding experience to students, community

Tidewater Community College diagnostic medical sonography student Trish Rogerson traced Yolanda Ward’s pregnant belly, her wand drawing deliberate, gentle half moons under her stomach. An image of Ward’s unborn child – a little girl to be named Madison – flashed onto a small technical monitor, as well as a widescreen television set.

Madison’s dad-to-be, Dadrian Hyman, quietly stared at the sepia sonogram plastered on the flat-screen – until he broke the silence with an admission Rogerson said most parents-in-waiting never make.

“I’ll be honest,” Hyman said, his eyes glued to the 3D ultrasound image. “I have no idea what I’m looking at. I can only really make out the head.”

TCC’s diagnostic medical sonography program began as a way to give students more experience working with obstetrical patients. These days, director Felicia Toreno said her free 3D/4D ultrasound screenings have become as much of a learning experience for the families as to the students.

“Patients are getting to watch their sonogram, and they’re learning all that anatomy along with the students,” Toreno said. “And they just love it. For the first time, instead of an ultrasound that’s zip-zip-zip-zip, this is an ultrasound that is very meticulously laid out. The students are looking for specific anatomy in a specific order, and the parents are encouraged to watch and ask questions along with the students.”

The program began offering free ultrasounds about 10 years ago and only to a few expectant mothers, often women they already knew. But as word began to spread, and as more and more students asked for more scanning time, Toreno had to adopt a formal scheduling procedure – and she even had to jump a few hoops.

“We had to develop a more formal release form, and it became a process that was built into the students’ learning,” Toreno said. “We actually had to send it through the TCC Dean of Finance and the Virginia state Attorney General so that the process would be insured under student liability coverage. There are strict rules that we do have to follow.”

Now all 15 students in her program get one “OB day” during their final semester.

While an ultrasound professional supervises the scan, Toreno said her students take ownership of their day. They call to confirm patients’ appointments – usually three to four moms participate each OB day – tell them what to bring and give directions to the Regional Health Professions Center on the Virginia Beach Campus, where the sonography program is based.

Rogerson said she enjoys scanning babies on her OB day, not only for the opportunity to work with patients but also for the critical practice time.

“It’s just the more time you do it, the more you get it,” Rogerson said. “And you learn different tricks from different instructors. So you just kind of figure out what exactly it is you’re after.”

“It becomes an absolute win-win,” Toreno said. “We provide the service, which ultimately is for a selfish reason; it’s for the students to scan and get those skills. But, in doing that, we are providing state-of-the-art equipment and a service that most parents would have to pay for because most offices don’t do 3D for free.

“These guys get to come out of the program with a great comfort level that even some staff sonographers don’t have – and they get it on OB day.”

Hyman later pointed at a bundle of thin and vertical white lines and asked, “Is that the ribs?”

“See, Dad! You know where you’re looking,” Rogerson said. “You’re hired!”

Interested moms-to-be can schedule a free 3-D ultrasound appointment by calling 757-822-7271. Three schedules are released through the year, one for the spring, summer, and fall semesters respectively. Appointments are limited. Donations to the program are appreciated but not required. Moms should bring a CD-R or DVD-R so they can keep their ultrasound images.


  • have to be less or around 32 weeks along
  • cannot be high risk
  • cannot be carrying twins