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Graduate Student-Led Outreach Increases Awareness of and Interest in Medical Physics

A Santoso*, C Lin , C Steffel , A Weisman , E Jackson , University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI


(Monday, 7/30/2018) 1:45 PM - 3:45 PM

Room: Karl Dean Ballroom A2

Purpose: Graduate students in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Medical Physics established an outreach program. This work overviews design, experience, outcome, and future endeavors for Medical Physics (MP) outreach programming.

Methods: Graduate students identified outreach opportunities in the local community. Several "away" events were created to bring MP fundamentals and research to science fairs (3 events), public schools (11 events), and community colleges (1 presentation). Tools to educate and increase curiosity in MP included an overview presentation ("What is Medical Physics?", "What is the Career Path to Become a Medical Physicist?") paired with hands-on, interactive demonstrations. Participants were surveyed to determine their interest in learning more about MP.

Results: To date, graduate students have interacted with more than 600 persons (range 5-175 persons per event, ages ranging from children to adults). In a pilot study, all participants from late elementary to early high school students (N=7) indicated an interest in learning more about MP. The outreach team received a portable ultrasound device that is fully dedicated to outreach efforts; participants scanned for abnormalities in a soft tissue phantom. Visualizations of medical imaging and therapy concepts were also presented. For additional demos, the team borrowed materials, including x-ray films and Geiger counters. To further establish need for these outreach efforts, 31 prospective MP graduate students were asked if they knew what MP was at/before age 18 - not a single prospective student answered yes.

Conclusion: Many opportunities to engage community organizations through MP outreach exist. Outreach may be one mechanism to address late knowledge of individuals entering the MP pipeline. Medical physics outreach may not only promote collaborations with industry, academia, and the clinic, but also enlighten future leaders in our field. Future efforts include inviting local students to visit the department and expanding "away" events into surrounding rural communities.


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