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This Future Doctor is Teaching Old Medical Tech New Tricks

Alex Alvarez wearing a microphone

University of Arizona MD/PhD Candidate Repurposing the Ultrasound Machine to Discover Heart Disease

Alex Alvarez is rounding the corner on a rigorous, eight-year, dual-degree program made possible through a partnership between the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and the College of Medicine. Part practitioner, part researcher, part social advocate – Alex isn’t waiting to put his education and experiences to work.

About Alex Alvarez


  • Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering, May 2015
  • MD/PhD Candidate in Biomedical Engineering

Graduating in: 2023
From: Albuquerque, NM

How Ultrasound Machines Can Be Used to Detect Heart Disease

While working at one of the free community health clinics on campus, Alex saw the need for practical, affordable, noninvasive imaging technology to aid in diagnosing patients. He discovered that the ultrasound machine, usually associated with prenatal care, could be repurposed to look at the functionality and electrical activity of the heart and brain to detect arrhythmias – irregular heartbeats that may indicate underlying severe heart disease. Since then, developing novel ultrasound techniques for clinical applications has been the focus of Alex's research. 

Work In the Field Fuels Research In the Lab 

Alex is interested in expanding how the ultrasound machine can be used in migrant, indigenous, and underserved communities from Arizona to Appalachia and beyond. According to Alex, "The ultrasound machine has limitless potential." The equipment is inexpensive and portable, which is critical when serving (sometimes remote) communities where resources are scarce. 

Why Research at the University of Arizona is Impactful

 "There is no better place to do research than the University of Arizona," declares Alex. To him, the university's standing as a top-tier (R1) research institution and the optical science program's #1 ranking definitely matter, but he cites the collaborative culture at Arizona as a key reason for his success as a student, saying, "Anybody at Arizona can form a collaboration" and "95% of people are super approachable, congenial, and warm."

Bring Your Ambition to Arizona

At the University of Arizona, Alex Alvarez found the flexibility and resources to match his extraordinary curiosity and ambition. Do you have a dream? More than one? Let's make them happen – together. Become a Wildcat.

Apply to the University of Arizona


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