HEALTH SPOTLIGHT By Felicia Lowenstein Niven
Local innovator Atlantic Medical Imaging has been serving the community for over 50 years with their cutting-edge healthcare technology.
You may take it for granted that you can pick up the phone to schedule an annual mammogram, an ultrasound to see your baby-to-be, or an x-ray to determine if you’ve broken a bone. It wasn’t that long ago that such procedures weren’t available, or if they were, you would go to the hospital. Fifty years ago, the hospital was the only place where imaging tests could be done. That changed in South Jersey because of a dedicated group of radiologists, who, quite literally, envisioned the future. They founded Atlantic Radiologists in 1964, and opened the first outpatient imaging center in Northfield, NJ in 1971. The rest is history.
Today, you know the group as Atlantic Medical Imaging (AMI), and most likely you have been through their doors in any of their 11 offices in Atlantic, Cape May, Ocean, and Monmouth County. This full-service radiology practice
specializes in all of the latest imaging tests, including Open and Closed MRI, CT, PET/CT imaging, 3D Digital Mammography, Ultrasound, DEXA scans, Biopsies, Nuclear Medicine, and X-rays. In addition, you can find specialized services at AMI’s Centers of Excellence: the Breast Imaging Center of Excellence and the Cardiac Imaging Center of Excellence. But it’s what AMI has brought to the community over the last half century, and to the practice of cutting-edge local medical imaging, that has really changed lives.
Dr. Alan J. Simpson joined the group in 1976, recruited from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York where he was chief resident in diagnostic radiology. He was one of a number of well trained radiologists recruited to join AMI. “Top
radiologists trained at Jefferson, Mt. Sinai, Duke and Harvard and Yale joined the practice,” he remembers. “This was a practice with a tremendous vision, and we were excited to be a part of it.”
As imaging evolved, so did the services at AMI. The group worked to stay on the cutting edge, acquiring its first Computed Tomography (CT) scan in 1986. A CT scan “combines a series of x-ray slices taken from different angles and uses computer processing to reconstruct cross-sectional images or ‘slices,’” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Initially, a single slice CT would take 45 seconds to do one slice,” noted Dr. Simpson, “which meant a brain CT could take up to 45-minutes. Today, we can scan the whole head in about 15 seconds.”
The acquisition of the CT machine was a major accomplishment at the time and provided the community with a safe, non-invasive test that helped physicians better diagnose and treat medical conditions Now, all CT scans at AMI are equipped with low dose CT technology which provided up tp 75% less radiation than standard CT imaging. The innovations kept coming. In 2001, AMI provided the first Coronary CTA for cardiac patients. There were so few sites that had access to this type of technology that AMI soon became one of the nation’s foremost authorities. “Radiologists from all over the world came to Galloway, NJ to learn about this breakthrough imaging technology,” said Dr. Simpson.“Every week for three to four years, we hosted physicians for seminars.”
In 2004, AMI introduced the first 3T MRI. The strength of the 3T MRI provided high quality images, faster and more accurate. This allowed for the diagnosis of problems even earlier, resulting in quicker treatment for patients. The group also offered outpatient image-guided biopsies and treatments, such as using catheters to treat disease internally. In 2007, AMI doctors were named in the nation’s top 10 cardiac imaging specialists. In 2008, they established the first dedicated women’s imaging center and converted all x-ray and mammography equipment from analog to digital. AMI was the first in Atlantic and Cape May counties to offer 3D Digital Mammography. This life saving technology provides earlier and more accurate diagnosis, leading to less false positive exams and reducing unnecessary stress and procedures for women. Now, any study done may be accessed on any computer in the AMI network and interpreted by the appropriate specialist. “We have radiologists who are musculoskeletal fellowship trained experts, for example,” said Dr. Simpson. “They are the ones that interpret the images that pertain to musculoskeletal disorders. They speak the same ‘language’ as the referring doctors which means better medical care for patients.”
Clinical excellence is paired with a compassionate patient experience designed to be second to none. “Patients are often apprehensive because they are concerned,” said Dr. Simpson. “We treat you as we would a family member, which means we won’t hesitate to walk you to your car if you need some additional support. We’ll interrupt our doctors to talk to a patient if we feel that will help ease fears. Many people who come in will ask for specific technologists, because they’ve developed that relationship. They are happy to see the same support staff”.
Another way AMI has chosen to make a difference in the communities they serve is with the AMI Foundation (www.amifoundation.net), established in 2003. The Foundation regularly gives back to the community with programs like the Dr. Jan Astin Mobile Digital Mammography Van, which provides free screenings to uninsured women, and the fight against lung cancer with free low-dose lung CT screenings. The Foundation has given over $1 million to various organizations including RNS, Gilda’s Club, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and made a positive impact through their annual Tools for Schools drive, Thanksgiving food drive, and December toy drive.
As for the future of AMI, it looks bright. “Because imaging has become such an integral part of medical diagnosis, and preventive care, we’re always looking at new tools,” said Dr. Simpson. “The healthcare delivery system is changing, but being a good physician, and providing good work, skilled medicine, compassionate care, and using advanced technology appropriately will always do well.”
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