Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography

SDMS Announcements

Sonographers Making Waves - Risa Schneck

by Katie Kuntz, MEd, RT(R), RDMS, RVT, FSDMS

Sonographers Making Waves - Risa Schneck
Sonographers Making Waves
Risa Schneck, RDMS, RVT

How long have you been a sonographer?
I have been a sonographer since 1993. I went to sonography school in Florida and I took my ARDMS certification examinations in October 1993, back when they were only offered once a year. The exams were “on paper” at that time—there were no computer testing centers! I took Physics, OB/GYN, and Abdomen all in one weekend.

Where do you work?
I currently work in the Philadelphia, PA area at the Abington Memorial Hospital in the Maternal Fetal Medicine department. I have been in many other locations before this. My first sonography job was in Nashville, TN, followed by Detroit, MI, and Washington D.C.

How did you become interested in your career? 
I like to say that I didn’t find my ultrasound career, it found me. I have had a long and varied career in sonography. Over the years, I took the time to try different aspects of ultrasound and that always provided me with a new challenge. The career is so much more than people realize. You can do it for 20+ years and still be learning, growing, and changing. I graduated college with no idea what I wanted to do, and a family member recommended sonography school. I've been doing it ever since.

How have you been “Making Waves?”
My first job out of school was at Vanderbilt University Hospital. I had the privilege of working with and learning from some iconic pioneers: Philippe Jeanty M.D., Arthur Fleischer, M.D., and Donna Kepple, RDMS. I learned not just sonographic skill, but that it was a constant learning process and to never be afraid to ask questions or try anything. Since it was a large university hospital, I had the opportunity to do vascular, OB, abdomen, small parts, and pediatric sonography. I was only tempted to leave this wonderful job by an opportunity to participate in a research project funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I worked for the Perinatal Research Branch of the Eunice Shriver National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development. Dr. Roberto Romero led this research and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. He trained me in Fetal Echocardiography, giving me the tools I use to this day. It was truly an honor to participate in this research where I learned so much.

I next decided to try the commercial side of sonography and became a Field Applications Specialist for Acuson. I loved learning the ultrasound machines from top to bottom and being able to adjust them to get the best diagnostic pictures possible. It was such a great chance to meet people doing all types of sonography all over the country, and it gave me the opportunity to expand my own skill set. I was supposed to be the "expert" coming in to train them, but I still learned something every day. It also put me in touch with the types of struggles that some of my peers had. There is amazing sonography done all over the country, not just in the larger well-known institutions, but also in the small community hospitals.

I then settled back in to clinical practice again, doing mainly MFM sonography, including fetal echocardiograms for the last 13 years. Fetal echocardiography and obstetrical ultrasound are my passion. Every day is another opportunity to be the best part of someone's day or to be a source of information and comfort. When I explain to patients how small the heart is that we are imaging and investigating, they are surprised and amazed. I love what I do.

What would you like to tell other SDMS members to inspire them to make a difference and enrich their careers? 
Do not have any preconceived notions of where your career is headed. OB was the area of sonography I least enjoyed in school, probably because of the difficulty and it is now my chosen area of expertise. I never thought I could do applications and I did. It changed my life. Finally, remember that even though you might do ultrasound exams all day long, it is often a unique experience for the patient and important to them. It is so important to me that we give the patient the best diagnostic services as well as assuring an enjoyable experience. Combining the two is often a challenge, but I'm always trying.

Do you know a sonographer who is doing something out of the ordinary? Whether it is a grand gesture or a small moment that makes a difference in someone’s life, the SDMS would like to hear about it so that we can share it with you. So, if YOU know someone who is making waves, tell us at!