Improving Health Through Medical Physics


Nathan Yanasak, PhD | Augusta, GA

AAPM Newsletter — Volume 43 No. 4 — July | August 2018

RSNA/AAPM Online Physics Modules: A Progress Report

Many of you are intimately familiar with the many hats that medical physicists wear. One of the privileges of working in a medical school is participation in the education of medical residents. Unfortunately, not every radiology residency program has the benefit of a medical physicist on faculty, to give lectures or to consult on-the-spot with residents about everyday issues (e.g., safety issues, protocol optimization).

Back around 2006, Dr. Bill Hendee was instrumental in driving a discussion about revamping the medical physics curriculum and improving educational delivery in resident training programs. One of the objectives of those early AAPM- and RSNA-sponsored education summits was an initiative to develop web-based educational modules covering a broad spectrum of topics in the new curriculum. These were proposed to improve access to medical physics training at residencies without in-house physics educators and to provide a tool for on-demand questions arising in the reading room.

AAPM and RSNA jointly supported the cost of module development. Medical physicists from across the country developed ideas and content, which was then shaped into multi-media lessons by RSNA technical staff. Bill and Dr. George Bisset formed what became the Physics Education Task Force Subcommittee—a group co-chaired by one AAPM and one RSNA member—with the first deployment of modules in 2009. Drs. Eric Gingold and Robert Dixon (at UNC) took over the Co-Chair position in 2012, and I replaced Eric in 2016. Bob and I are passionate about this program and both of us developed past modules in addition to our chair duties.

Today, the "Physics Task Force" oversees a suite of 45 diagnostic physics modules. Each module garners about 400-1000 viewings per year. Roughly 70% of those experiences consist of completed module viewings, consistent with the desired goals of offering "digestible" training experiences and instant educational feedback for particular questions at the viewstation. Certainly a success in its initial implementation.

An educator's job, however, is never done: technical topics and educational methods both evolve. In the case of Physics Task Force, Bob and I are overseeing an AAPM and RSNA funded, five-year program (2018 is year three) to update all modules to improve educational delivery. Each January we have a submission and selection process for teams that wish to adopt and amend one of nine of the modules up for improvement and updating that year. This insures that, beyond the initial year of module renewal, a team is available for future management of the module as errors are noted or new developments and standards are adopted. The desire for each team is that physicists, radiologists, and residents are represented during the evaluation and development of content.

In the adoption year, we review the plans for revision that each team submits — with some changes being minor and others requiring a thorough reworking. To aid the team with direction and discovery, the RSNA Education Center Staff sends along previous user recommendations and comments from task force members to assist in module revamping.

Normally six months later, the new module content is sent to the co-chairs of the Physics Task Force and they (we) assemble nine separate teams— each with a physicist, radiologist, and resident—to review the content for quality. Most reviews include recommendations for minor changes (typos or clarifications). Occasionally a team is given substantial recommendations for improvement and the co-chairs conduct a second review for these few modules needing more revision. Near the end of each year, the RSNA Education Center staff updates the revised modules and loads them into the RSNA Online Learning Center.

If it sounds like a lot of work for each year, it is! Yet, with all of the tasks broken down into smaller teams, the effort is well worth it. And, everyone is invited to become involved. We can always use your help, whether you want to be part of a module adoption team or a peer reviewer (contact for more info).

Thanks to our users, we receive feedback throughout the year, and we are excited to note some system-level changes made at your request. RSNA migrated the modules to a new RSNA Online Learning Center last year, which offers some new features. Each of the new modules has a topical menu for quicker access to specific information, and the modules are now searchable by keyword.

Since the beginning of this program, AAPM and RSNA have been partners in this endeavor, and I'd be remiss without mentioning the many people in both groups who keep this program going. In particular, we thank Lisa Cohen from RSNA for keeping Bob and I on organized and on-schedule, along with other staff at AAPM (Lisa Rose Sullivan and Angela Keyser) and RSNA (Stephanie Taylor and Linda Bresolin). A special thanks goes to the members of the Physics Education Task Force Subcommittee for their ideas and their help in reviewing and overseeing our module adoption program. Finally, I'd like to acknowledge the many individuals from past years who have helped make the module program a success today, including Tarah LeBreton, Beth Sartore, Bill Hendee, Eric Gingold, and Ed Pietrzak. Thank you to everyone who helped us with the module project—it has kept that giant hat rack from becoming too crowded.

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