Improving Health Through Medical Physics

Medical Physics Education Abroad: ICTP College on Medical Physics

Hasin Anupama Azhari, PhD | Dhaka, Bangladesh

AAPM Newsletter — Volume 44 No. 3 — May | June 2019

Editor's note: Dr. Azhari completed her PhD work, “Physical, Biological, and Clinical Aspects of Remote Afterloading Brachytherapy,” in 2011 through a sandwich program between the OWSD (Organization for Women in Science for the Developing world) and National University, under an ICTP fellowship. In addition to her many current roles, Dr. Azhari was the founding president of the Medical Physics Society of Bangladesh. She also received an International Day of Medical Physics (IDMP) award in 2018 for her special contributions to the field of medical physics. Dr. Azhari took the initiative to work with the Bangladeshi Ministry of Health, Directors of the Hospitals, and Directorate General of Health Services, and after more than seven years of hard and persistent work, has succeeded in creating the post of Medical Physicist in Bangladesh.

The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, is not only for theoretical physics. For more than 50 years, it has also been dedicated to the dissemination of applied physical and mathematical scientific expertise in the developing world. ICTP was founded in 1964 by the late Nobel Laureate Professor Abdus Salam with a vision to harmonize the expertise of scientists throughout the world. His successors have continued working on his goal to stem the scientific brain drain from the developing world by providing scientists there with the same access to research, education, and training as their counterparts in wealthier parts of the world. With funding support from the Italian government, UNESCO, and IAEA, ICTP is able to provide various programs and support for the scientists in different fields. Scientists working at ICTP have access to up-to-date technologies for advanced studies and research in many areas of physical and mathematical sciences, especially in support of excellence in developing countries.

At ICTP, training activities in medical physics began in 1983 with the efforts of Anna Benini and Sergio Mascaren. In 1988, a series of more formal education programs, the College on Medical Physics (CMP) was started to further strengthen medical physics in developing countries by familiarizing scientists with the roles and responsibilities of medical physicists in radiology and imaging. The main promoters and organizers of CMP, ICTP are Anna Benini, John Cameron, Perry Sprawls, Luciano Bertocchi, Slavik Tabakov, and Franco Milano, among others. Women students and scientists are particularly encouraged to participate in the CMP. In this report, I would like to briefly describe my experiences from attending the CMP, ICTP.

Attendees of the 2006 CMP, ICTP in Trieste, Italy. Attendees of the 2006 CMP, ICTP in Trieste, Italy. Attendees of the 2006 CMP, ICTP in Trieste, Italy.

In 2006 after receiving the M.Sc degree in medical physics from the Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering at Gono University (with a thesis semester in Heidelberg University, Germany), I applied to attend the courses of CMP, ICTP. The CMP is enriched in imaging, which is really helpful for an academic beginner. I remember the organizers asked the participants to present on the medical physics situation in their countries. I was the only participant from Bangladesh and at the time I was a beginner, knowing very little about medical physics in Bangladesh. However, I felt I must do something for the sake of my country, so I worked hard day and night preparing my slides, collecting information from different sources and especially from Professor Golam Abu Zakaria, a Bangladeshi medical physicist working in Germany. In the end I was one of the representatives from different countries who presented their situations, and this experience guided the rest of my pathway in medical physics. I also attended the ICTP Regional College on Medical Physics in 2007 when it was held in Mumbai, India. In 2008 I was made an associate member in ICTP in Medical Physics and will remain an associate member until 2021. During my visits to Trieste, I have joined the courses of CMP, ICTP several more times. We received the best poster presentation award in 2014.

The list of CMP, ICTP courses I have attended is given below. These courses are jointly sponsored by ICTP, AAPM, and regional medical physics associations.

  • September 4-29, 2006, CMP, ICTP
  • November 12-23, 2007, ICTP Regional College on Medical Physics, Radiological Physics & Advisory Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, India
  • September 10-28, 2012, CMP, ICTP
  • November 4-December 1, 2013, training course on medical physics for radiation therapy, ICTP
  • September 1-19, 2014, CMP, ICTP
  • March 25-April 25, 2017, School of Medical Physics on Radiation Therapy: Dosimetry and treatment planning for basic and advanced applications, ICTP
Receiving the best poster presentation award at the 2014 CMP, ICTP in Trieste, Italy. Receiving the best poster presentation award at the 2014 CMP, ICTP in Trieste, Italy. Receiving the best poster presentation award at the 2014 CMP, ICTP in Trieste, Italy.
Attendees of the 2007 Regional CMP, ICTP in Mumbai, India. Attendees of the 2007 Regional CMP, ICTP in Mumbai, India.

Benefits from CMP, ICTP in Bangladesh

Contributions to the Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering

During my 15 years of teaching experience at Gono University in the Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering department (MPBME) I have transferred my knowledge from the CMP courses to my students and colleagues. The Sprawls Educational Foundation provides open resources online to enhance learning and teaching of radiology and medical imaging. The European Medical Radiation Learning Development (EMERALD) workbooks and e-learning materials are used in our department as one source of teaching material. The chapters on radiology and imaging with figures help the students quite a lot. The website guides students' study in a direction parallel to the book. The book on Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Principles, Methods and Techniques has been written in a very simple manner for easy understanding by the students. The students practice the workbook with tasks and visualizing the database of digital images is of a great help for them to increase their knowledge. Also, lesson plans for radiology and imaging courses can be organized using the structured timetables provided on the website. The radiation protection class delivered by Anna Benini at CMP, ICTP was also very informative at that time for our country.

Contributions to the Bangladesh Medical Physics Society

In Bangladesh there are no medical physicists working in the radiology and imaging sector. Knowledge from the CMP courses has been disseminated through the Bangladesh Medical Physics Society (BMPS) by its members who attended. BMPS and the MPBME together have started to increase public awareness of medical physics, as well as approach the hospitals in Bangladesh to make them understand the role and importance of medical physicists in radiology and imaging. The EMERALD website and knowledge of ICTP is also helping us with these types of activities.

Contributions to Encyclopaedia EMITEL and its Multilingual Dictionary

The European Medical Imaging Technology e-Encyclopedia for Lifelong learning (EMITEL) is an international project coordinated by Dr. Slavik Tabakov to compile a multilingual dictionary of medical physics terms available as an e-encyclopaedia. I am one of the fortunate people selected to assist with this project, representing Bangladesh as the Bengali language coordinator. The other members for Bangladesh are Mr. Safayet Zaman, Mr. Akhtaruzzaman, and Professor Zakaria. We are teaching our students to use this encyclopaedia, which is very beneficial for them. In Bangladesh the education language is Bengali up to the higher secondary stage (12th grade), so after university admission it is very handy for the undergraduate students to have a medical physics Encyclopaedia from Bengali to English.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Luciano Bertocchi for always supporting me during my visits at ICTP, and Dr. Slavik Tabakov for always encouraging medical physicists in the developing countries and for his vision for women empowerment. Thanks also to Professor Zakaria who continuously encourages us to attend these types of activities and his commitment to the improvement of medical physics in Bangladesh.

celebration of Encyclopaedia EMITEL celebration of Encyclopaedia EMITEL celebration of Encyclopaedia EMITEL Top: at a celebration of Encyclopaedia EMITEL. Bottom: from left to right, the EMITEL members from Bangladesh: Prof. Golam Abu Zakaria (University of Cologne, Germany); Ms Hasin Azhari (Anupama) [Bengali Coordinator], Mr Md Akhteruzzaman, and Mr Safayet Zaman (all from Gono University, Dhaka).

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