Nearly 20 years ago, Michael R. Jaff, DO, a vascular medicine specialist and medical director of the Vascular Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, saw a need for standardized training for vascular clinical trials.
“Skills and experience vary widely, and because of the rigorous requirements of clinical trials, we needed to teach technologists protocols for performing ultrasound images,” said Jaff.
In 1997 Jaff founded The Vascular Ultrasound Core Laboratory (VasCore), the first center to train technicians to perform ultrasound images for vascular clinical trials and then have his team of experts interpret the images. Located in Boston, VasCore has participated in over 170 clinical trials since its inception, with technologist training happening haphazardly all over the world. But Jaff had always dreamed of creating a larger and more centralized training center.
“The problem we ran into was that with traveling so much to different training locations, we only got ‘healthy’ subjects to use as models,” said Jaff.
Jaff took advantage of an opportunity to move VasCore to a bigger building that had space for a future training center, and then a donation from a patient of his provided the initial funding for the training center Jaff had envisioned.
“During an office visit, that patient said, ‘You helped me. Now how can I help you?’” he said.
On April 21, 2015, the new state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the advancement of vascular medicine opened. The VasCore Training & Education Center (VTEC) offers a space for clinical trial image training and interactive meetings for health care professionals in cardiovascular medicine. With decades of expertise, the VTEC team provides hands-on, customized training using the latest image technology and educational techniques required by medical device and pharmaceutical clinical trial sponsors, technologists and physician investigators.
“Now we can ask patients of the Mass General Vascular Center if they would like to volunteer to act as models to help with training, so technologists can learn with ‘real’ patients, that is to say, patients with abnormalities” said Jaff. Technologists gain real-world experience to prepare them to more accurately perform ultrasound images for clinical trials.
The facility is a 1,750-square-foot center featuring state-of-the-art ultrasound equipment, a multimedia room, and a classroom that allows communication across the facility. One training session at VTEC has already occurred for a study that will launch soon in Europe. During the training, the participating physicians were able to “attend” the trainings by video conference.
A division of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization (MGPO), VTEC tailors training to clinical trial sponsor needs, with support available from local medical and academic partners. Customized training ensures consistent image acquisition across multiple clinical trial sites, which ultimately results in high-quality data and reduced time and expense.
Future projects are in the works at VTEC, said Jaff, including a training program for emergency department physicians to learn about point-of-care ultrasound testing. And to see VTEC open its doors has realized a vision for Jaff.
“This is something we’ve been dreaming of for a long time, so to see it happening is really exciting,” he said.