Improving Health Through Medical Physics


Jim Dobbins, PhD | Durham, NC

AAPM Newsletter — Volume 44 No.2 — March | April 2019

The Education Council recently held its annual retreat, and I am pleased to offer this brief summary of items looking back over the past year and ahead to high priority items for our efforts in the coming year.

From the Council Chair's perspective, there are three major achievements of our council that I would like to call to your attention. First, we have achieved our multi-year goal of establishing a large number of new resident slots, and we are now roughly at where we predicted we would need to be back in 2010 when a large work force analysis was done by AAPM. We estimated then that about 175 residency slots per year would be needed. We currently have 98 accredited residency programs in therapy, 27 accredited programs in imaging, and 5 accredited DMP programs. All together these provide about 170–180 total residency slots per year, not counting the DMP programs. Reaching this goal has involved a huge amount of work by many individuals over the past decade, and I want to publicly acknowledge all of those who have contributed to this effort. We continue to monitor the required number of residency slots, and one of our key priorities for the Education Council is to work collaboratively with the Professional Council in assessing how the output of our graduate and residency programs matches the current workforce needs. Both of our councils will continue to collaborate in this work and we will keep you informed as we make progress on our updated work force estimates.

A second major achievement relates to the previous one, and that is that we have made significant progress in the expansion of the number of imaging residencies. While my previous statement that we have reached the approximate number of overall residency slots needed is true, we feel that there is growing evidence that we need to further expand the number of residency slots in imaging. With ongoing initiatives such as MP 3.0 and others, we as an organization are working to further the value that medical physicists are uniquely positioned to provide in the medical enterprise. Medical physicists can play a very valuable role in enhancing the performance of imaging departments and clinics, and we need additional residency training slots to meet that need. Through the generous support of AAPM's board and the board of RSNA, we now have committed substantial funding to establishing additional residency slots in imaging. The first two such imaging residency awards were made this year as part of this initiative and will continue adding more slots in the coming years.

A third major achievement this year is the completion of a task group report (TG 318) to develop a business plan for better utilization of our online educational resources. AAPM has a number of online resources of value to our members, including the Virtual Library and a set of quizzes that can be used towards maintenance of certification. There has been a sense over the past few years that we could do a better job of promoting these resources for our members and at the same time developing a more comprehensive business model for these resources that would add revenue to AAPM— which again, allows us to improve our service to our members and to the field. This task group has completed its report and we will now be looking at the implementation of those recommendations.

In addition to the above three major achievements, I would also like to call to your attention several other things that our committees, working groups, and task groups have accomplished over the past year. Our Public Education Committee (George Sandison, Chair) has received a grant from the American Institute of Physics (AIP) to develop an "Ask-the-Expert" website as part of our expanding outreach in public education. This new website will not only allow expert technical answers to the general public, but will also serve to highlight the role that medical physicists play in the medical community. A second achievement of note was the very successful workshop held this July just prior to the annual meeting, entitled," Improving the Teaching and Mentoring of Medical Physics," put on by our Medical Physicists as Educators Committee (Victor Montemayor, Chair). We also have just completed the fifth round of the MedPhys Match (John Antolak, SCOMM Chair), and we are looking at ways to integrate that with the common residency application process (MP-RAP). Our Medical Physics Education of Physicians committee (Karen Brown, Chair) and the ROMPES subcommittee (Matt Studenski, Chair) have completed a set of 27 trial online modules for radiation oncology; these are undergoing evaluation for their use in education of both radiation oncology and physics residents. And last, we have also made considerable progress in the collection of comprehensive data on graduate and residency programs under the leadership of council Vice-Chair, Ed Jackson.

One of the key points of discussion at our retreat was on how we could better integrate the international efforts of AAPM across the organization. Currently, international efforts are primarily overseen by the International Educational Activities Committee (Cari Borrás, Chair) under the Education Council and the International Affairs Committee (Derek Brown, Chair) under the Administrative Council. It is the sentiment of Jatinder Palta, Chair of Administrative Council, and me, and an ad hoc committee appointed last year by Board Chair Bruce Thomadsen, that we can better serve AAPM by putting all international activities under one umbrella. We held a joint session at our retreat between Education and Administrative councils, and we collectively concurred that moving international activities under one umbrella was the best way to go. Details on that move will be worked out collaboratively with our two councils and then a recommendation will go to EXCOM for consideration.

In summary, the retreat reminded us of the considerable work done by many in AAPM to support high standards of education and training across many types of learners. I am particularly grateful to the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of our many committees and subcommittees who put in considerable effort to advance education in medical physics. As always, we welcome any thoughts or suggestions you would have to help us further enhance our value to AAPM and its members.

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