The first AAMP-ISEP Therapy Physics Workshop was held on September 27–30, 2017 in Durban, South Africa in conjunction with the 55th National Congress of the South African Association of Physicists in Medicine and Biology (SAAPMB) under the slogan "Radiating Medical Physics through Africa." This workshop was sponsored by AAPM under the International Scientific Exchange Program (ISEP), with additional financial support provided by the International Organization of Medical Physics (IOMP) and a number of local companies.
This is the first time the AAPM-ISEP workshop took place in South Africa (SA), identified as a unique country having the facilities and the resources enabling attendance from other nearby African countries. Medical physics is well advanced in SA. The first group of medical physicists started working in SA during the 1950s and has been self-sufficient since the 1970s with regards to training and education of medical physicists, satisfying international standards. The profession is regulated by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) with the practice being regulated by the Department of Health Directorate of Radiation Control. There are six academic institutions actively involved in the training of medical physicists. There are currently about 120 registered medical physicists in the country actively involved in the profession. Approximately 80% of these physicists are involved in Radiation Therapy. The country boasts 23 MSc and 13 PhD students at present. The attendance at the workshop consisted mainly of professional medical physicists involved in therapeutic Medical Physics, radiation oncologists and a number of post-graduate students.
The workshop was intended for professionals where renewed faculty specializing in therapeutic physics, imaging and radiation oncology presented their experience in didactic settings, so as to maximize the learning experience for the participants of the workshop, to inspire further collaborative research and development efforts within South Africa and regionally, and to improve the quality of patient care through closer involvement of clinical medical physicists. This 3-day workshop included advanced lectures and practical sessions, organized with generous support provided by Elekta, covering various aspects of the applications of physics in medicine, emphasizing imaging and radiation treatment of cancer. The AAPM faculty were involved and participated actively in the SAAMBP conference by giving keynote lectures prior to the ISEP meeting that were very well received.
The invited AAPM faculty included Profs. Habib Zaidi (Geneva University Hospital, Switzerland, workshop director), Jacob Van Dyk (Western University, Canada), Charles Shang (Florida Atlantic University, USA), Moyed Miften (University of Colorado, USA), Cheng Saw (Northeast Radiation Oncology Centers, USA), and Yakov Pipman (AAPM/IOMP, USA). The co-directors for the workshop were Prof. Habib Zaidi, representing AAPM-ISEP and Dr. Graeme Lazarus, President of the SAAPMB.
The first day was very well attended, with over 100 participants including invited guests representing different bodies involved in Medical Physics and radiation oncology activities in the country. Unfortunately, contrary to the envisaged plans, participants were mainly from South Africa owing to the lack of financial support, but also from other neighboring counties (Nigeria and Namibia). More than 100 certificates were delivered to participants at the end of the workshop.
A small but energetic industrial exhibition took place in the adjacent main auditorium. After the opening of the meeting by Dr. Rory Callaghan, (a local radiation oncologist in charge of the busiest private practice in the province), the meeting started with an opening lecture by Prof. William Raeon the history of Medical Physics in South Africa, one of the pioneers in the field running an active academic Medical Physics program in the country. This was followed by series of basic and advanced lectures dealing with various aspects of therapeutic Medical Physics and clinical applications in radiation oncology. The official program included more than 18 hours of classroom lectures on various therapeutic Medical Physics topics. The full scientific program can be consulted on the workshop web site. In addition to didactic lectures, one afternoon (three hours) was dedicated to practical sessions that were highly appreciated by the attendees.
After three inspiring days, the workshop came to a close on Saturday September 30; leaving behind some remarkable teachings and countless wonderful memories. This was followed by a short visit to the Medical Physics Department of the University of Bloemfontein where all AAPM speakers accepted the invitation of Prof. William Rae to give additional lectures to his graduate students and junior faculty on October 2 – 3, 2017. The interactive sessions with the PhD students, organized in different groups according to their research topics and backgrounds, were very beneficial and enabled fruitful brainstorming sessions. I personally take this opportunity to thank Prof. Rae for his contributions to the advancement of Medical Physics in South Africa and regret that he will be moving to Australia at the end of the year.
The local organizing committee did an excellent job, from looking after accommodations for AAPM faculty and participants coming from outside Durban, to lunches, gala dinners, etc. The educational program was remarkably executed, as witnessed by all participants and reported in the evaluation forms. The conference drew some of the widely known experts in diagnostic and therapeutic Medical Physics and it was no surprise that the lectures delivered were of great quality. All invited speakers delivered brilliant lectures and provided plenty of valuable handouts that were made available to the participants on USB drives.
AAPM-ISEP 2017 would not have been a reality if it weren't for all individual participants and representatives of the involved organizations, with special thanks extended to the main promoters of ISEP workshops (AAPM and IOMP) and the local host (SAAPMB) in addition to all local sponsors.
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