Initially, Sagar said, the study was done as an internal quality assurance project for St. Luke's. However, she said she felt the problem needed to be presented to other doctors around the country to help improve medical care nationwide.
Indeed, other doctors familiar with her work say it is precisely that kind of internal analysis that is needed to reduce health costs and improve patient care in America.
However, Dr. Sanjiv Kaul, president of the ASE, said that if Sagar was fired because of her presentation, it could stymie other doctors looking to improve care at their hospitals.
"It could have a chilling effect," said Kaul who has known Sagar since they both practiced in Virginia in the 1980s. "It's ridiculous, after all those years in Milwaukee. She's a fantastic scientist. More of this kind of work needs to be done."
However, the problem found by Sagar can cost hospitals and other doctors money because, ultimately, it can lead to doing fewer expensive diagnostic tests, said Kaul, head of the cardiovascular medicine at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.
At the time of the Sagar's presentation in June, other experts in echocardiography said the problem likely was occurring all over the country.
"There are an awful lot of people out there interpreting echocardiograms who really shouldn't be," Dr. Judy Mangion, a cardiologist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School said back in June.
Mangion said that many community-based cardiologists have only Level 2 status, meaning they have just six months training interpreting cardiac ultrasound studies.