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College Sued for Vaginal Ultrasound Recruitment

valencia_0.jpg
WMFE

Two Valencia College students in Orlando have filed a lawsuit alleging students were "browbeat" into having pelvic ultrasounds performed on them.

Valencia College hasn’t been served the lawsuit, filed late last week, but defended its use of student volunteers.

Students being trained to conduct vaginal ultrasounds at Valencia can practice the procedure on one another, if there are signed consent forms. Two unnamed Valencia students, however, claim that program instructors threatened to blacklist them from getting jobs at local hospitals if they did not volunteer for the exams.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court's middle district in Orlando, says the practice is a violation of free speech and unreasonable search and seizure clauses in the U.S. constitution. It seeks an unspecified level of damages. 

College spokeswoman Carol Traynor said Valencia hasn’t officially been served with the lawsuit, but said the use of volunteers is nationally accepted.

“The use of volunteers — including fellow students — for medical sonography training is a nationally accepted practice,” Traynor wrote in an email to WMFE and Health News Florida.

“Valencia’s sonography program has upheld the highest standards with respect to ultrasound scanning for educational purposes, including voluntary participation and professional supervision by faculty in a controlled laboratory setting. Nonetheless, we continue to review this practice and others to ensure that they are effective and appropriate for the learning environment.”

The lawyer representing the unnamed plaintiffs wasn’t available for an interview.

Valencia has three weeks to respond to the lawsuit.

Kathleen Megivern,  executive director of the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs, which has accredits Valencia’s program, said they have received no complaints from students or faculty members.

The group’s standards and guidelines say programs must ensure voluntary and prudent use of students or other human subjects for non-clinical scanning. Student grades and evaluations must not be affected by participation or non-participation.

Megivern said they have no data on how common the practice is among sonography programs, and said Valencia is due for a site visit as part of its five-year accreditation, which ends in 2016.

“Obviously, if the allegations are true, this program would be in violation of the standards,” Megivern wrote. “Since they (Valencia) are already in the review process, we will do what we can to expedite it and the timeline probably won’t end up being very different from what it would be if it had been triggered by a review.”

Abe Aboraya is a reporter with WMFE in Orlando. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.