Improving Health Through Medical Physics


Matthew B. Podgorsak, PhD | Buffalo, NY

AAPM Newsletter — Volume 44 No. 4 — July | August 2019

New Blueprint and Content Guide for the 2020 Therapy Medical Physics Part 3 Exam

A recent newsletter article described the complex process followed by a medical physics question before it is deemed eligible to be included in an ABR exam (The "Lifecycle of ABR Medical Physics Exam Items"). ABR exam questions are selected using a "blueprint" that defines the coverage of subject matter being evaluated. Using the same blueprint to assemble an exam from year-to-year enables consistency of subject matter in different years.

Blueprints for the discipline-specific exams (Parts 2 and 3) are based on the overall scope of clinical practice specific to each medical physics discipline: diagnostic medical physics (DMP), nuclear medical physics (NMP), and therapeutic medical physics (TMP), and are aligned with the CAMPEP core-curricula for graduate programs and residency programs. Blueprints for the Part 2 (written) and Part 3 (oral) exams for an individual discipline are very similar, although not identical.

All Part 2 and Part 3 blueprints are initially developed by committees that include a diverse group of members with expertise in each discipline. Once a blueprint is approved by the ABR Medical Physics Trustees, an exam content guide for each exam based on the associated blueprint is posted to the ABR website. These content guides form a resource that a candidate can use to establish the subject material included in each discipline-specific exam.

Periodic review of an existing blueprint is necessary to ensure that ABR exams evaluate a candidate’s knowledge of contemporary clinical practice. ABR policy requires a blueprint review every five years. Recently, the blueprint for the TMP Part 3 exam underwent a major review and revision. This process was initiated in 2016 by Geoff Ibbott and Mike Herman, and was completed earlier this year by the current Part 3 exam committee members (Frank Ascoli, John Bayouth, Katja Langen, Moyed Miften, Matthew Podgorsak, and Richard Popple). The resulting blueprint includes five new categories with multiple new subcategories.

In developing the blueprint, future categorization of any currently developing clinical technology and treatment techniques was taken into consideration, with the hope that the blueprint will remain current for at least five years. New questions representing any technologies and techniques that become routine clinical practice in the next few years will thus have a place in the blueprint.

The content guide based on the new blueprint has been posted to the ABR website (see the category description for TMP). The categories within the content guide based on the new blueprint are:

  • Category 1: Reference and relative dosimetry
  • Category 2: Treatment machines
  • Category 3: External beam treatment planning, uncertainty management, and treatment planning system QA
  • Category 4: Brachytherapy, radiation protection, radiation biology
  • Category 5: Patient safety, data transfer and integrity, professionalism and ethics

The new Part 3 blueprint and associated content guide will be implemented starting with the 2020 oral exam. Every candidate will be examined with questions from the new categories, including but not limited to questions specific to:

  • traditional treatment units (e.g., linac, CT-simulator, etc.);
  • proton therapy;
  • non-traditional treatment units (e.g., MR-guided linac, robotic linac, SRS-dedicated unit, etc.);
  • management of treatment uncertainties;
  • quality control and error prevention;
  • incident learning systems and medical event reporting;
  • computing and IT; and
  • professionalism and ethics.

It is important to note that a candidate who has conditioned will be re-examined with questions in the same category that he/she conditioned previously.

Please contact the ABR with questions regarding the new TMP Part 3 blueprint or content guide.

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