Paying it Forward in Haiti: Physiatrist Shares Ultrasound Knowledge with Those in Need


What if ultrasound could be used all over the world to detect life-threatening conditions? What if we could teach people to teach ultrasound techniques and carry that knowledge to remote communities? What if we could save lives using ultrasound—NOW?

These were some of Dr. Cliff Gronseth’s 2:00 am thoughts that inspired him to share his in-depth ultrasound knowledge with those in need; those who without his guidance and expertise, would not have access to this life-saving technology. Dr. Gronseth is a physiatrist in Boulder, Colorado and calls himself an ultrasound champion. He has an intense passion to teach the power of ultrasound and an ambition to save lives around the world using ultrasound; technology he believes is underutilized. Through the Now You Are the Group’s Interest (NYAGI) Project, a non-profit organization that he founded, Dr. Gronseth is empowering others in some of the most underprivileged countries in the world to learn and use ultrasound technology to help save lives.

In late January 2019, a NYAGI Project team of volunteers traveled to Haiti to teach the fundamentals of ultrasound to local physicians and nurses. The teaching emphasized maternal care, but also covered trauma assessment and musculoskeletal scanning as well as a few other specialties. In partnership with several organizations in Haiti, the NYAGI team worked side-by-side with local clinicians to equip them with basic ultrasound skills as well as to train other community-based health care providers.

“The goal is to empower the local providers; to
give them the knowledge and the tools to both do ultrasound and to teach others… to pass it forward.”

He believes in providing education and hands-on training to give practitioners the confidence to not only perform ultrasound on their patients, but to teach ultrasound to their peers. “Today you will learn things that are new, and we want you to teach the rest of Haiti,” Dr. Gronseth told his students as they began their training at Grace Children’s Hospital, who hosted the event.

Unlike many medical aid projects, the focus of this trip (and 2 previous trips to Nepal) was to teach, rather than diagnose and treat. This builds capacity and empowers communities in impoverished areas to take their health care into their own hands. “The idea is to train health care providers on the fundamentals of ultrasound: how to operate the ultrasound machine, locate body parts, and get good image quality,” said Gronseth. During the 5-day trip, the participants went quickly from theory to instructor-led scanning to independent scanning of patients with little to no coaching from the NYAGI team. “The NYAGI team helped us provide incredible training. They are committed, passionate people as well as very highly-skilled trainers on this technology,” said Dr. Nathaniel Segaren, Medical Director for Projet Santé, Haiti. This approach that includes ongoing self-learning is unique to NYAGI and includes leaving behind 20 donated licenses for 7D Imaging’s NAVTM software suites—one to go into the field with each machine.

Dr. Gronseth believes the best way to learn ultrasound is to perform ultrasound, so that’s what they did. The first day was devoted to getting acquainted with the students, evaluating their ultrasound experience, and introducing them to the ultrasound machines. Some had experience with ultrasound while others had never seen or touched an ultrasound machine before. The next 4 days were spent at the hospital providing hands-on training to the 43 Haitian obstetricians, nurses and midwives in attendance. The trainees, always eager for more knowledge, even attended ad-hoc evening informational sessions held by Dr. Gronseth to further hone their skills and address any challenges or roadblocks from earlier in the day. “They wanted to learn more. While many had some knowledge of the English language, we mostly relied on translators and broken English or French, but communication, teaching and learning happened,” said Dr. Gronseth.

The NYAGI Project hopes to continue providing training and portable ultrasound solutions to remote and impoverished parts of the world. “Ultrasound is a safe, affordable, portable and powerful diagnostic tool, and it is being rapidly adopted for bedside diagnostic imaging. Our team’s vision and mission are to bring ultrasound to the world to save lives now – together,” said Dr. Gronseth. v

About Dr. Cliff Gronseth:

Dr. Cliff Gronseth has been an advocate for the power of ultrasound since first using it 20 years ago. As a physician and educator, he is committed to bringing ultrasound to save lives to all remote, rural, resource-limited areas around the world. Dr. Gronseth is founder and currently managing partner of Spine West, a private practice in Boulder, CO, specializing in non-surgical musculoskeletal medicine and ultrasound. He is triple board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Electrodiagnostic Medicine, and Pain Medicine.

About the NYAGI Project:

NYAGI is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to increasing diagnostic ultrasound accessibility and education around the world. NYAGI’s vision is to improve healthcare by using diagnostic ultrasound in areas with limited resources.

About 7D Imaging:

7D Imaging develops ultrasound education solutions featuring high-resolution imagery and point-of-care reference guides to accelerate learning and enhance ultrasound use. The goal is to reduce the “steep learning curve” to mastering ultrasound and to help providers scan with greater confidence by providing ongoing immediate access to relevant information.

Special thank you to AAPM&R who sponsored this story in their monthly newsletter, PHYSIATRIST / May 2019.