Department of Family & Community Medicine

In African Villages, These Phones Become Ultrasound Scanners

Apr 16, 2019
Author: 
Donald G. McNeil Jr. for The New York Times, Photographs by Esther Ruth Mbabazi
Faculty member Dr. William Cherniak is profiled in The New York Times for his work in bringing handheld ultrasound scanners to rural Uganda. His Bridge to Health charity and partner Kihefo have found new and innovative ways to use the scanner, saving countless lives:

BUSHORO, Uganda — Lying on a church pew with his arm over his head, 6-year-old Gordon Andindagaye whimpered a bit — in fear, not pain — as Dr. William A. Cherniak slowly swept a small ultrasound scanner up and down his chest.

Dr. Cherniak and Rodgers Ssekawoko Muhumuza, the Ugandan clinical officer he was training, stared at the iPhone into which the scanner was plugged, watching Gordon’s lung expand and contract.

“O.K.,” Dr. Cherniak finally said. “What do you recommend?”

Gordon had a persistent cough and swollen lymph nodes, and looked tired and unwell. As other boys ran around outside, kicking a soccer ball made of rags and twine, he clung weakly to his mother. The scan on the iPhone’s screen suggested his lungs had fluid in them.

As Dr. Cherniak nodded approval, Mr. Muhumuza prescribed an antibiotic, and ordered blood tests to rule out tuberculosis, malaria and H.I.V. He arranged for Gordon and his mother to get a ride to a local clinic for an X-ray and a night of observation.

Dr. Cherniak, an emergency medicine specialist from Canada, said he would upload the scan that evening so an ultrasound specialist in Toronto could double-check the diagnosis: early-stage pneumonia.

The diagnosis was made possible by a new invention that Dr. Cherniak hopes will revolutionize front-line global medicine: a hand-held ultrasound scanner called the Butterfly iQ.

Read more in The New York Times.