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Graduate Success Spotlight on Veteran Luis Martinez

Luis Martinez had a lot of experience in the medical field before he even considered going into ultrasound.  As a hospital corpsman in the navy, he was trained extensively in the application of emergency medical techniques, disease and pathologies, and nursing techniques.  While Luis was in the service, his wife attended West Coast Ultrasound Institute to become an ultrasound technician and in the process, sparked his interest in the medical imaging field.  When he got out of the service, Luis decided to follow the lead of his wife and enrolled in the cardiac sonography program at WCUI’s Ontario campus. He flourished in the “echo” program there, and especially enjoyed the classes taught by Dr. Bhaa Azar, who challenged his students and held them accountable to a standard for scanning that Luis describes as “amazing.” Luis was inspired by Dr. Bhaa’s words, and fondly recalls the teacher often telling the class, “you're not photographers, you're looking at a heart, so do the best job you possibly can.” 

Luis decided to continue his education after completing the adult cardiac sonography program, and after an additional nine months, graduated with an additional specialization in pediatric cardiac ultrasound and congenital heart disease.  After excelling in his classes and passing the national board exams, the navy veteran quickly found a job at Riverside Community Hospital. Although happy to be employed and gaining experience in the sonography field, he was ultimately more interested in working for a VA Hospital and giving back to the military community and his fellow veterans. Soon after, he learned about an opening at a VA Hospital in Billings, WA, and although unfamiliar with the small city, Luis was ready to jump at the opportunity. He applied for the job, and impressed the cardiologist who interviewed him over the phone enough to gain his respect and personal recommendation for the job.  In fact, the cardiologist said that he would do whatever he could to get Luis hired in the position because of his strong educational background and superior interviewing skills. 

Sure enough, Luis got the job at the VA Hospital in Billings and quickly established himself as a reliable and knowledgeable tech – so knowledgeable in fact that the other echo techs who lack his formal education in sonography often turn to him for answers to clinical questions, and constantly ask him how he knows so much. Also, because of Luis’ adult and pediatric cardiac sonography background, he is able to image the more difficult cases that come through the VA Hospital, including adults with congenital heart defects that were surgically repaired at a young age. He also sees a lot of patients with COPD, lung disease, edema, and heart valve regurgitation issues.

Luis’s advice for students and new graduates is to try and learn as much as possible in a hospital setting.  He says that his experience at Riverside Hospital greatly increased his skills and taught him how to do more difficult contrast studies that he was never exposed to while he was in school or during his externship period.  He also advises graduates to be willing to consider pursuing job opportunities regardless of where they are geographically located.  The real-world, paid clinical experience is priceless regardless of where it is gained, and now has allowed Luis as a veteran in the military “buy-back” program to jump ten years closer to retirement. The successful sonographer ended the interview by stating that his goal is to become “the lead echo tech who conducts all types of echo studies and is able to utilize all aspects of echo technology at his location.” Judging from his history of past successes and perseverance, it won’t be a surprise when he accomplishes that goal sooner than later.   

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