Face of Innovation: DJ Cole, Radiology Technologist from Richmond VA

The face of innovation is a regular series in the VA Innovation Ecosystem (VHA IE) focused on VA employees working to change and save veteran lives through innovation. This month, meet DJ Cole, Radiologic Technologist at the VA Richmond Healthcare System.

Growing up as a tomboy with a knack for outdoor adventures, DJ Cole has had his fair share of emergency room visits. It was only a fateful visit to the hospital for a fracture that the medical field aroused his curiosity. She was amazed that a healthcare professional could painlessly examine her bones and ultimately help her heal.

This inquisitive mind has carried Cole throughout his career and now benefits veterans facing knee surgeries.

Radiology Technologist DJ Cole

Cole attended Virginia Medical College at the Commonwealth of Virginia University. After graduating, she joined the medical community as a radiology technologist. She explored all that her field had to offer, as an interventional technologist, chief technologist, and ultrasound and CT technologist.

Inspired by her mother’s career as a VA nursing supervisor, Cole worked at Richmond Virginia since 1980. She says the clinic allows her to work alongside a group of passionate professionals who broaden her horizons and are also committed to quality care.

“What I love about VA is all the patients I see,” she said. “I love it when they tell me about their careers in the service of our country. A smile means a lot to them. Helping out with information for them goes a long way. I am there for them. If it takes a few more seconds to help, I will. You never know what this veteran is going through. I think I can make a little difference.

A better way

When she joined the Pain Clinic, she quickly noticed that knee procedures were particularly difficult for patients. The main challenge was that the knee had to be elevated enough to be able to undergo an x-ray from the superior and lateral viewpoints. When she joined the service, pillows, towels, and linens were the norm for lifting a patient’s leg. Cole knew there had to be a better way.

“Just imagine. The pillow flattens, the towels and sheets move and come out quickly, and you reposition yourself again, as our doctor tries to place four needles in the knee and we ask the patient to stay still,” she said. “At all levels this is a big challenge for anyone.

I wanted to make the exam less stressful

As a result, many veterans had to postpone their visits due to severe pain and too much movement, increasing the radiation dose to both patient and staff. In some cases, sedation is required for the rescheduled procedure. Due to his inquisitive nature, Cole wanted to make the exam less stressful, securing the lower leg in a natural resting position, while providing the patient with a positive experience.

Cole used these experiences at the Pain Clinic to brainstorm a new positioning device to improve the veterans’ experience with these knee exams. She applied to the VHA Innovators Network (iNET) Spark-Seed-Spread innovation investment program three years in a row before finally receiving acceptance for fiscal 2021.

Cole remained determined to resolve this issue. She used these first three years to collect data to inform her future design and practice and to refine her case. As a Spark-Seed-Spread investor, she received the support and guidance to finally bring her vision to life and has since prototyped the Atlas Knee Supporter in two sizes to fit a variety of knee straps. .

Guarantee a safe and comfortable experience

Cole took everything into consideration to ensure a safe and comfortable experience for the veteran. It ensured compliance with infection control standards, strategically placed cutouts for injection site access, and used specialized materials that not only hug the joints for comfort and stability, but also avoid interference with the joints. radiological examinations.

Its prototype has been used in pain and radiation oncology clinics since February 2021, with positive results. Cole is now a second year Spark-Seed-Spread investor for 2022. She plans to pilot this device in other services, such as surgery, orthopedics, home health, spinal cord injury, nursing homes and radiology.

“We innovators support and encourage each other,” added Cole. “I made amazing, lifelong friends. There really is a great camaraderie and a great innovation specialist that keeps me on the right track.

Despite the challenges of working in a virtual environment, Cole has managed to enrich his professional abilities through the network of innovators. She discovered new ways to provide better quality care to her patients.

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