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Valencia's Transvaginal Ultrasound Case Expands

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A lawsuit against Valencia College’s medical sonography program has been expanded. A third unnamed student joined the suit in an amended complaint filed Thursday.

The suit alleges that Valencia College violated student’s constitutional rights by “browbeating” them to volunteer for pelvic ultrasounds. Valencia College didn’t respond to an immediate phone call seeking comment, but earlier this week announced a permanent ban to the practice of peer-to-peer transvaginal ultrasounds.

“We conducted both an external independent review and an internal review,” Shugart said. “Those were just completed recently. Based on those reviews, I’ve made the decision to suspend the practice permanently. And instead we’ll be moving to advanced simulation technology for learning those practices before students go into clinical settings.”

Students learning vaginal ultrasounds at Valencia College can practice the procedure on one another, if they sign consent forms. Two of the unnamed Valencia College students, though, said the program’s instructors threatened to blacklist them from getting jobs at local hospitals for not volunteering for the exams. The third new plaintiff says she was singled out for not participating.

The lawsuit says the practice is a violation of free speech and unreasonable search and seizure clauses in the U.S. Constitution, and is seeking punitive damages and a court order to ban the practice.

The lawyer representing the unnamed plaintiffs wasn’t immediately available for an interview. Kathleen Megivern, the executive director of the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs, which accredits Valencia’s program, said last week 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, but that students’ 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 up 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.”

WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.