MI Professor Gains Opportunity of Lifetime


Lorie Zelna, M.S., R.T. (R) (MR), Associate Professor of Medical Imaging, who recently accepted a position as a Director on the Board of Directors of the only programmatic accrediting agency in the country for medical imaging.

Donya Forst, Print Editor

   The medical imaging profession offers vast opportunities for faculty, staff and students. No one knows this better than Lorie Zelna, M.S., R.T. (R) (MR), Associate Professor of Medical Imaging, who recently accepted a position as a Director on the Board of Directors of the only programmatic accrediting agency in the country for medical imaging, the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT).

   The JRCERT is the “only agency recognized by the Department of Education for accreditation of traditional and distance delivery education program in the field of radiologic sciences,” which means the agency accredits a number of educational institutions that meet standards in  radiologic science areas, including radiography, radiation therapy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and medical dosimetry.

   Programs then have to meet a specific list of criteria  to become accredited – and that then requires approval by eight board members. Positions within the board are chair, first vice-chair, second vice-chair, secretary/treasurer and then four directors, one of which will include Zelna. Zelna’s position is a three year term and at the end of that period, she can reapply for another term.

   “Based on those standards, there is a very defined list of criteria that everyone must meet and it’s essentially a document that has a built-in checklist. The site visitors go and see whether or not those documents that have been submitted are really producing what they say they are producing and doing what they are saying they are doing. Then the JRCERT office does a validation of that, and that information goes to the Board of Directors for final decision-making,” said Zelna.

   Zelna served as a site visitor for the JRCERT 10 years ago and is presently team chair for the JRCERT’s site visitor group, but she always dreamed of doing more.

   “I’ve had great opportunities with them to serve as a team member because the process as far as a site visitor is apprentice, and then team member, and then you are a team member for certain periods of time, and then you go to team chair, and I’ve been in that role for quite a while and I’ve had the opportunity to mentor those team members and apprentices, so I’ve had really great opportunities with the JRCERT from the get-go,” said Zelna.

   After a lengthy and competitive interview process, Zelna finally has the chance to follow her dreams without leaving Misericordia.

   “I’ve always thought I would like to do more as far as accreditation is concerned because that’s what the JRCERT is all about. So professionally for me to be a part of that is amazingly unbelievable. I just can’t believe it happened to me; I am so honored. I don’t know this part of the JRCERT, so I have a lot to learn. I have a huge learning curve,” she said.

   Since the JRCERT is housed in Chicago, Illinois, Zelna will be required to travel twice each year for board meetings and occasionally to other destinations to represent the JRCERT at organizational meetings such as the state society and national educators meetings. However, most other meetings will be handled over the phone, which allows Zelna to keep on doing what she loves, teaching, whether it be in the classroom or clinical setting.

   “This is as close as I can get to the best of both worlds where I still get to do the job that I love so much and have an opportunity now to reach out nationally and have a positive influence over programs across the country,” said Zelna.

   Elaine Halesey, Ed. D., R.T. (R) (QM), Department Chairperson of Medical Imaging, believes this is a wonderful opportunity for Zelna, both personally and professionally, and for the university’s program.

   “Obviously I’m biased, but they made a good choice. I was thrilled. I think it brings prestige to our faculty to be in that kind of position, personally for her and her professional development. I think it benefits the department overall. The university name is getting out there, and I just think it’s a win-win,” said Halesey.

   Despite the time, however short, that Zelna has to be away with JRCERT duties, she is confident that students will not fall behind during her absence thanks to her fellow faculty members.

   “That’s something that is really great about medical imaging. All of the faculty work cooperatively together to make the program continue to run as it needs to run without damaging the education to the students and still promoting our profession,” said Zelna.

   Halesey believes students will have an opportunity to gain some knowledge from Zelna’s outside work.

   “By being on the board, she is privy to conversations that the board has about issues and changes to the standards and things like that which is of great benefit to us. Obviously she’s limited in the confines of ethics –  she’s not going to share private information nor would we expect her to, but certainly she’s going to have the big picture. And I think that’s going to be very valuable to us,” said Halesey.

   Zelna feels her position will enhance student’s understanding of the importance of professional organizations to the medical imaging profession.

   “I think it can be well explained and a go-to and a resource for students that otherwise wouldn’t be possible face-to-face. There are digital and electronic ways of getting the information, but having the ability to be face-to-face is of the greatest benefit,” she said.

   The day Zelna received her acceptance is still fresh in her mind and likely one that she will remember for a long, long time. She was walking around campus when it happened, and when she went back to her office, there was no one was around to tell.

   “My phone dinged and I opened up my email and there it was. I almost stopped breathing because I couldn’t believe it happened to me, and then I came up here and nobody was up here to tell and I was like I needed to tell somebody,” said Zelna.

   Halesey and the rest of the medical imaging faculty are very supportive of Zelna’s new position and believe she will strive for the best for herself and the rest of the medical imaging profession.

   “Some people could coast after two decades of teaching, but she’s always looking to take on something else to improve. I’m not surprised she would go after such a big position and I’m not surprised that she got it,” said Halesey.