ALMA — Alma College is offering a new service that is designed to both improve community health and provide students with real-world experience they will take with them and use long after graduation.
Housed in the Integrative Physiology and Health Science (IPHS) department, the college recently acquired a DEXA scanner and is offering members of the public the opportunity to use it at rates much less than they would at hospitals or health clinics.
For between $50 and $100, individuals can work with students and health professionals to find out a variety of information about their bone destiny and body composition — which can be very helpful in learning their risk of disease and injury, among other applications.
“It’s recommended that women of a certain age get this scan annually in order to assess their risk for osteoporosis,” said Alex Montoye, associate professor and IPHS department chair at Alma College. “Anyone who exercises regularly would benefit from this test, and student-athletes are frequent users of it. Some people get scans prior to starting a weight loss or exercise program in order to be able to detect changes in body composition with their lifestyle change. Others choose to get scans before surgery or after an injury in order to to help guide rehabilitation strategies. There are all sorts of applications for it.”
- Learn more about the Alma College Integrative Physiology and Health Science program.
Here’s how it works at Alma College: a DEXA (short for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry) machine passes an x-ray beam through the body, usually in the hip and the spine. The amount of radiation used in the scan is pretty minimal, similar to a dentist’s x-ray. After about 15 minutes, you’re all done, and you’ll await a phone call from Montoye and his team.
They will provide you with a “Z-score,” which shows how your bone density compares with people similar to you in terms of age, gender and ethnicity. They can also tell you other interesting tidbits, such as your body fat percentage and percentage of lean mass, both at the whole body level as well as regionally — for example, comparing lean mass in the left versus right arms.
Those pieces of information, Montoye said, can be very helpful for doctors, physical therapists, athletic trainers and other professionals who make recommendations and diagnoses regarding health.
“For some people, seeing the types of things they feel in their bodies illustrated by numbers is a very powerful thing,” he said. “We had one student-athlete here recently with a persistent lower-leg injury. Four months after the injury, she did a DEXA scan and found that her injured leg was a full two pounds lighter than her uninjured leg, most of which was lean/muscle mass loss— that’s how much she had been favoring her injured leg. That number was shocking and informative to her, and that’s what we’re here to do.”
Alma College is also “here” to educate students and benefit the local community, and Montoye said the DEXA scanner is a good example of how the college lives those tenets of its mission. While students are not trained to read and interpret the data that the DEXA scanner provides — Montoye handles that task — they are able to use the machine, and they help administer the tests.
“It’s absolutely going to be a value to students to use this kind of equipment, because they’ll see it if they go into any type of a clinical setting, or they’ll look at data that has come from one of these scans and get an idea of how it works,” Montoye said.
While DEXA scanners are located at local area hospitals and clinics, it is usually much more expensive to use at those locations than it is at Alma College. Montoye added that while DEXA scanners are sometimes found on campuses at Division 1 colleges and universities, he knows of no other Division 3 college in Michigan, like Alma, that has a DEXA scanner.
“Community health is one of those areas where Alma College can certainly make a difference, and this machine will assist in moving us toward to the goal of helping those in our community,” he said.
Alma College’s DEXA scanner is located on-campus, in the McIntyre Center for Health Science. For more information, and to set up an appointment, call Montoye at (989) 463-7923 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.