The occupation of medical physicist is explicitly included in the latest version of the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO-08), published by the International Labor Organization, under the category of Physicists and Astronomers. ISCO-08 also states that when working in health care, the medical physicist can be considered a health professional. Yet, medical physicists in many countries have no professional recognition. Acknowledging that certification of medical physicists will improve their status, this symposium aims to describe the status of medical physicist certification in the various regions of the world: problems they face and recommendations for improvement.
Board certification of medical physicists in North America is performed by the American Board of Radiology, American Board of Medical Physics, American Board of Nuclear Medicine and Canadian College of Physicists in Medicine. There are certain educational and experience requirements for the applicants. Although there is no formal reciprocity with certification bodies from other continents, some experienced physicists moving to North America from overseas can have a simplified procedure of their certification in the US or Canada.
The Asia Pacific region is undergoing an increasing expansion in radiation medicine in both the complexity of technology and in its clinical application. Medical physicists are uniquely placed to address needs in the increasingly technical sophistication of service delivery as well as basic safety requirements. Unfortunately, medical physics workforce needs are not always met in the Asia Pacific region due to the huge diversity in social economies, educational standards and technological advances. The IAEA/RCA regional project RAS6077 on â€œStrengthening the Effectiveness and Extent of Medical Physics Education and Trainingâ€? has been a stimulus in paving the way towards certification. It is an agreed set of minimum standards and recommendations to be utilized by clinical training centers in medical physics, including assessment and certification. Member states in the region have been actively participating in this program. Currently the following countries have certification systems in place: Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Thailand. Other countries are in various stages of development leading to certification.
Medical physics recognition in Africa remains a challenge despite major advances in the development of guidelines for regional harmonization of academic education and clinical training. In the majority of countries, medical physicists are appointed based on their academic qualifications and they are not certified by a national health authority as a professional who has undergone an accredited competency-based residency. Only twelve countries in Africa have a national medical physics professional grouping or focal point. South Africa and Ghana have structured systems of medical physics recognition and regulation. Namibia and Zimbabwe have less formal systems of recognition based on foreign education programs. The main concerns related to the lack of recognition of medical physicists are the potential for medico-legal challenges, unethical conduct, unsafe practices and inappropriate regulatory control.
In 2018, it was estimated that the workforce dedicated to medical physics in Latin America is composed of 1256 professionals, corresponding to 1.9 medical physicist per millions of people. There is a low level of organization regarding certification of professionals in most of the countries in this region. Some countries offer a working authorization for this kind of professional under the responsibility of the national nuclear authority. In a recent survey from the International Organization for Medical Physics (IOMP), Brazil was identified as the only country in Latin America with a well stablished certification process, annually offered by the Brazilian Association of Medical Physics (ABFM). 475 professionals have been certified by ABFM (348 in RT, 82 in RD and 45 in NM). In Brazil the profession of physicist and medical physicist has been recently regulated and Residence Programs are offered in 14 institutions.
According to published IOMP data, Europe is the region in the world with the highest number of medical physicists per population. More than 30 countries have medical physics organizations, and many have set up certification schemes; some, like Spain, more than 30 years ago. And today, countries like Austria, Finland, Germany, Greece, Netherlands and the UK require registration in addition to certification as a permit to work. Although the name of the â€œcertifiedâ€? qualified medical physicist changes from country to country, a common accepted term is Medical Physics Expert (MPE), defined in the 2013 European Union Basic Safety Standards, and extended to areas outside radiation. In order to facilitate the harmonization of medical physics standards throughout Europe, the European Federation of Organisations for Medical Physics established in 2016 an Examination Board (EEB) that offers the European Diploma of Medical Physics and the European Attestation Certificate to those Medical Physicists that have reached the Medical Physics Expert level. The goal of the EEB is not to replace national certification schemes but to facilitate the mobility of medical physicists across Europe, in accordance to the 2011 Bologna declaration.
At the global level, the International Medical Physics Certification Board was formed in 2010 with 11 Charter Members with the objectives, amongst others
â€¢ To accredit national medical physics certification boards
â€¢ To help any country (or region) with no current medical physics certification board to establish its own certification board
â€¢ To certify medical physicists in countries (or regions) where no certification board exists
To date, three national certification boards have been accredited, eight medical physicists have been fully certified, and another 120 are in the process of being examined. Examinations have been held in Trieste (at the ICTP on four occasions), Mexico City, Prague (at the World Congress), Dhaka, Riyadh, and Amman. Currently there are 15 Supporting Organizations, with the IOMP the Principal Supporting Organization.
1. Realize the problems of recognition that medical physicists face globally and compare it with our situation in the US and Canada
2. Review various certification, registration and licensing options available
3. Explore what the AAPM can do to promote medical physics worldwide by sharing experiences and supporting international certification initiatives
Not Applicable / None Entered.
Not Applicable / None Entered.