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WSU’s Inaugural Endowed Chair using 3-D Medical Imaging to Advance Healthcare Education

Press Release

June 9, 2014

OGDEN – Weber State University’s chair of radiologic sciences says his own experiences helped spur the idea to use the software, computer technology and ingenuity in his department to create 3-D models of joints for dental-implant planning and facial reconstruction.

That is one of the innovative ideas that led to the selection of Robert Walker as the Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Dumke Inaugural University Endowed Chair. Funded by the Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Dumke Foundation, this gift was the first commitment for an endowed chair at WSU as part of Dream 125: The Campaign for Weber State.

WSU’s radiologic sciences program is the only program in the nation that teaches technologists the use of 3-D reconstruction imaging.

“Our 3-D images give us absolute alignment, which could allow us to take the image of a joint or jaw and print a model on a 3-D printer,” Walker explained during the acceptance speech for his award. “When I had my knee replaced, it was one-size-fits-all. If we reconstruct and print in 3-D, we should have a model knee that health care providers could use to plan and create devices for a perfect fit in the operating room.”

That is a challenge Walker now can pursue thanks to his selection as endowed chair. Support from the foundation will also allow for collaboration between radiologic sciences and the dental hygiene departments in the Dumke College. WSU will be the only school in the country to educate dental hygiene students in head and neck 3-D imaging.

 “Dentists have told us they are sending their planning for dental implants and reconstructive work to Germany, which costs them $1,000 per patient,” Walker said. “We want to educate professionals who have the expertise to do that right here at home.” 

The 3-D collaboration afforded by the endowed chair will include at least 60 dental hygiene and more than 400 radiologic sciences students every year in all levels, from associate to master’s degrees.

The dean of the college, Yasmen Simonian, said Walker’s enthusiasm and dedication have been a driving force for innovation over the course of 32 years at the university.

“Dr. Walker’s accomplishments, philanthropy and continuous striving for excellence make him the most suitable individual for this distinguished honor,” she said.

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