From Direct Patient Care to Assisting R.T.s Who Provide the Human Touch

Jan. 4, 2016

Liana and family at graduation In pursuing her dream of a career in health care, Liana Watson, D.M., R.T.(R)(M)(S)(BS), RDMS, RVT, FASRT, CAE, discovered sonography and a life dedicated to her profession as an advocate for education, the radiation sciences and the global reach of her fellow professionals.

It all began with Liana writing her senior paper in high school on medical imaging, a field that appealed more to her than nursing and was less expensive to pursue than medical school.

“I had two options: either take out loans to pay for medical school, or go into radiologic technology — particularly ultrasound. But ultrasound was relatively new in the 1980s and the easiest way to get into the discipline was to do x-ray first,” Liana said.

She found a program in 1984 that offered the start she needed in radiography, sonography and mammography and opened up educational and professional avenues she didn’t know existed. An ongoing commitment to her patients and the profession led Liana down a long road of education and involvement in state and national professional organizations as she pursued more education.

She married, had three children and continued her long involvement in her state affiliate society and ASRT. Here, Liana talks about having had only two jobs since high school: her work as a sonographer, which included instruction, and her current position with the ASRT.

She started out as a sonographer and mammographer at the Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and, as one of only two on-call sonographers, worked so many hours that her children now swear they will never go into the medical field.

“I worked full time during the week, and then we had to take call in the evenings, on weekends and on holidays,” says Liana.

With all the experience she gained by working with patients and her training in anatomy and physiology as a sonographer, Liana was offered a position as a didactic instructor for the Regional West School of Radiologic Technology. It was at this time that she was encouraged by the program director, Dan Gilbert, to join the Nebraska Society of Radiologic Technologists.

“It moved really fast getting involved with the ASRT because at the state level I was one of the only sonographers who was interested in working with the ASRT. And I didn’t have to wait that long to become a delegate because of the smaller number of those we have involved at that level.”

Dan’s encouragement had led her to a mutually supportive R.T. community. One good deed deserves another: Liana sponsored Dan for ASRT Fellowship later in her career.

As her society involvement increased, she also pursued a bachelor’s degree in business administration and health services and continued to work at Regional West, for a total of 22 years with the facility.

“My dad was in the military and my mom worked odd jobs, and neither was a college graduate. I was the first college graduate in my family. I got my certifications and then my degrees, so I didn’t do it all at the same time. I ended up with my bachelor’s degree 10 years after I graduated from high school. The degree provided me with what I needed to be able to continue to develop professionally. So without that degree, I don’t think I would have been prepared to move into managerial roles.”

With a foundation in management, didactic education and the imaging sciences, Liana started on a master’s in business administration and, eventually, earned a doctorate. Then in 2006, the ASRT Foundation awarded a scholarship to Liana. She later volunteered to serve on the Foundation Board of Trustees in order to give back to the individuals and groups that made her scholarship possible.

“My award was $5,000, and I have given back that amount I don’t know how many times now, but it’s one of those things that I know can help somebody do something they think is really important to them.”

All her experience, education and sacrifices prepared Liana for her current roles as executive vice president of the ASRT Foundation and ASRT’s chief governance and external affairs officer. That experience also enabled her to more fully understand the needs of her fellow professionals and the ability of individuals to make a difference globally. Along with supporting the general ASRT Foundation endowment, Liana is providing a cash gift to create the Watson R.T. Community Outreach Fund. This grant is designated for a mammographer or a sonographer to participate in outreach efforts.

“Now, with the outreach program, who knows how many lives just that one person teaching somebody else…will touch in that person’s lifetime? That’s the main thing. By funding one person, we don’t know how many people are actually going to benefit from that,” says Liana.

Her main inspiration to give back? “I think it was my time on the Foundation Board, being a Trustee, and seeing how many scholarship applications we get every year and how few we can fund. Again, it’s that no amount is too little. Even $500 pays for books for a semester, and sometimes that’s the difference between a kid getting to go to school or not getting to go to school.”