The purpose of this article is to report on the most recent joint training course on "IMRT and Other Conformal Techniques in Radiation Therapy" organized between the Association of Medical Physicists in Russia (AMPR) and AAPM, that was held in Moscow, Russia this past November. AAPM's participation in the course is organized by the International Training and Research Coordination subcommittee, currently chaired by Dr. Joanna Cygler, whose charge is to facilitate medical physics training and research opportunities for international medical physicists.
This course was the third such collaborative teaching course with the AMPR over the past five years. As in previous years, the course covered topics in modern radiation therapy with the goal of providing international perspective on a variety of topics. Lectures were given by faculty from both AAPM and AMPR in Russian. (AAPM lectures were given in English with live translation to Russian.) The students, who come from all over Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region, stay in Moscow for a total of 4 weeks of training at the AMPR's International Training Center (ITC) that is housed in the N.N. Blokhin National Medical Research Centre of Oncology in Moscow, Russia, home of the AMPR and Russia's predominant teaching hospital.
As in previous years, AAPM sent two members to join the faculty, Dr. Emilie Soisson from the University of Vermont Medical Center and Dr. Emily Heath from Carleton University. This year's topic included the subjects of radiation biology, proton and heavy ion therapy, IMRT QA, Auto-planning, secondary MU calculations, along with several others. The clinic at Blokhin is equipped with all that you might find in a typical North American academic teaching hospital including modern linacs with full IGRT capabilities and a full arsenal of dosimetry equipment.
As we have noted in previous years, this region has gone through a somewhat rapid modernization, from mainly cobalt-dominated therapy to incorporating modern linacs, and even proton therapy, in a relatively short amount of time. Equipment varies widely from region to region and center to center. Most of this year's students told us that they were working in a center with a mix of cobalt and modern accelerators. However, many reported that they felt they were not capitalizing on all of the clinical potential of newer technologies. We were interested to find that many clinics continue to support cobalt therapy, purchasing new cobalt units when theirs approach end of use, due to the ease of use and continued value in some clinical settings.
One thing that AAPM members might not recognize is that international organizations such at the AMPR see AAPM as a great resource. The medical physics faculty in the AMPR's ITC look not only to AAPM, but also the IAEA and ESTRO to "train the trainers" in Russia. They fly abroad for meetings and are aware of international recommendations, including those made by AAPM. One difficulty the faculty have is finding Russian language training materials for medical physicists so, to that end, they have translated many AAPM task group reports into Russian for use in their country. In addition, as in this course, they make an effort to involve medical physicists from other parts of the world directly into their educational programs.
In summary, this course was once again a rewarding and educational experience for everybody involved, including us. We hope that AAPM will continue to support this collaboration with the AMPR, and other international educational efforts, in the future.
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