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ODU students to attend CARS conference in Barcelona, Spain

Six students from Rick McKenzie's Medical Imaging and Simulation class at Old Dominion University will head off to Barcelona, Spain, on June 23 to attend the Computer Aided Radiology and Surgery Conference, an international symposium dedicated to advanced information technologies in radiology and surgery.

"Students tend to give it very favorable reviews," said McKenzie, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, who attended the conference with students last year in Berlin. During that trip, students had the opportunity to visit two different hospitals to view hip and spinal surgeries, as well as a children's hospital.

McKenzie said that the conferences are generally well received by students, but for him, the highlights of the trips are the visits to surrounding hospitals and universities. He said that the best part is learning about new research and exchanging ideas with other people in the field.

"I think a lot of it is the collegiality of working with other professors," he said. "It's a lot of good conversations, good discussions, and you get to see a lot of research."

He said that one of the more striking things about medical research overseas is the discrepancy in resources from country to country. While in some places, researchers are hard-pressed for funding and have no choice but to do more with less, countries like Switzerland have enough funding to finance 12-year-long projects.

"You rarely see anything more than five years here," he said of projects in the United States. "Usually, it's more like two or three."

This year's conference will feature tutorials and workshops on minimally invasive spinal surgery, model-guided therapy, computer-assisted prostate surgery and interventional oncology. The workshops are spread out over four days from June 24-28, and feature highly regarded international surgeons as speakers and instructors.

Students will also visit two universities in Portugal, traveling by rail to Porto and Lisbon to observe research on-site. After enjoying a free day in Lisbon, the class will return to Norfolk on July 6.

Before leaving on the trip, students are required to take the Medical Imaging and Simulation class in order to give them some background on the subject. They also must be enrolled full time and have a minimum GPA of 2.5. The trip costs each student $1,100, although scholarships are available that lower the cost to $800.

In the future, McKenzie would like to see students who already have a background in medical imaging attend the conference, perhaps in a smaller group. He'd also like to see more of an emphasis on the opportunities outside the conference.

"If I were to do it again, I would want to focus more on the collaborative efforts with some of these other labs that we've developed a relationship with," he said. He also would like the university to invite more international researchers to visit ODU, in order to foster greater sharing of ideas.

This article was posted on: June 9, 2008

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