Overlapping Research, Clinical Care and Education to Advance Virtual Colonoscopy and More

“We attract medical students from all over the world who want to learn and conduct research at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and at UCSF.”

Dr. Judy Yee, professor and vice chair of the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at UCSF and chief of radiology at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, oversees all imaging subsections including CT, MRI, ultrasound, interventional radiology and nuclear medicine. Her research primarily focuses on colorectal cancer screening and early detection with a technique called CT colonography (CTC), or virtual colonoscopy. Her 2008 book, Virtual Colonoscopy, is a standard training text for the procedure. “I’m grateful to be able to  train the next generation of doctors and researchers,” she said.

Ever since Dr. Yee saw a presentation at a national meeting on the potential of CT colonography, she was inspired to bring it back to the VA. “The VA system has been very supportive in terms of allowing me space and the equipment for funded research,” said Dr. Yee. That research aims to lower the radiation dose of many imaging tests, including the already low radiation dose of CT colonography.

She continued: “The VA is committed to radiology research advances. For example, we have an entire building dedicated to neurodegenerative imaging. Institutionally, we have been able to see how imaging can be used for more accurate diagnosis and earlier detection of disease. Our commitment challenges us as researchers and doctors.”  

The purpose of traditional colonoscopy is to detect colon cancer as early as possible. Virtual colonoscopy accomplishes this as well, but since it images a significant portion of the lower body, it also can discover previously undetected abnormalities.

“I will never forget a patient in whom we discovered an incidental kidney cancer,” Dr. Yee said. “He came in for a CT colonography and his colon was normal, but we found the kidney cancer which he had no clinical signs of. We caught it at a very early stage; he had surgery to remove it, and he is doing well. We saved a life using the new technique.”

That wouldn’t have happened, according to Dr. Yee, without the SFVAMC’s environment of overlapping research, clinical care and education. “There’s a collaborative ethic here that ensures constant advancement in research. The VA can apply that information and cutting-edge technology to the best possible patient care in a timely manner.”

Dr. Yee is professor and vice chair of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging. She is chief of radiology at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. Dr. Yee received her medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of New York, and completed her residency in Radiology at the Albert Einstein College of New York, followed by a fellowship in Body Imaging at UCSF. As chief of Radiology at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Dr. Yee oversees all imaging subsections including plain films, CT, MRI, ultrasound, interventional radiology, neuroradiology, nuclear medicine,and radiation safety. She is also director of the 3D Imaging Laboratory which is a campus resource for clinical care, research and education. In 2015, she was the first recipient of the Radiology department's Radiology Award for Outstanding Faculty Mentoring. Dr. Yee is 2015 president of the Society of Abdominal Radiology. 


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