CINCINNATI—The University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine will be the only medical school in Ohio and third in the United States to offer a doctorate degree in medical physics, a quickly growing field that allows experts to put highly technical science to practical use and directly impact patient care.
Creation of the new doctorate of medical physics degree program was approved by the UC Board of Trustees at its Aug. 28, 2012, meeting and will now be presented to the Ohio Board of Regents (OBR) for approval.
The move comes in advance of expected changes to the American Board of Radiology’s board certification process for medical physicists, which will be implemented nationally in 2014. At that time, medical physicists will be required to complete a two-year clinical residency program to qualify to take board examinations and achieve the Qualified Medical Physicist designation that allows them to work in a patient care setting.
Medical physicists collaborate with radiation oncologists to design treatment plans for cancer patients, monitor equipment and procedures to ensure patients receive the prescribe dose of radiation to the correct location and develop improved imaging and therapeutic techniques.
"Medical physicists bridge the gap between physics and medicine and as the medical community embraces more radiation-based techniques in health care, the need for highly skilled medical physicists is growing so training programs must begin growing to fill the need,” explains Howard Elson, PhD, professor and director of graduate education for the UC College of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology.
According to a recent "manpower assessment” study conducted by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, at least 120 new radiation oncology medical physicists will be needed annually to meet current demands as well as those beyond 2014. U.S. radiation oncology medical physics training programs are producing about 75 graduates each year.
"Our doctoral program is being built with both the new boarding requirements and increased demands in mind so that we can continue to offer high-quality educational experiences that enable our trainees to practice effectively in the community,” adds Elson.
Pending OBR approval, the program will accept its first class of doctoral trainees in the fall 2013.
Nine students are currently enrolled in the two-year medical physics master’s degree program at UC. The master’s program, which has been in existence since 1959, will be phased out with the start of the doctoral program. The current program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP)—one of 17 such accredited programs in the United States.
CAMPEP accreditation is an independent, voluntary review process to identify exceptional medical physics education programs. Graduates of CAMPEP-accredited programs are considered fully independent and prepared, pending board examination, to work in medical physics. Graduates of non-accredited programs are required to complete an additional year of clinical training experience before working fulltime in the field.
"The department of radiation oncology is very proud of our long legacy in physics education and the establishment of the doctorate of medical physics program as among the first in the country is tremendously exciting for our department, the university and the region," adds William Barrett, MD, chair of the UC radiation oncology department and medical director of the UC Health Barrett Center, an outpatient adult cancer care facility.
More information about the medical physics program can be found here
Housed at the Barrett Center, the radiation oncology department is affiliated with the University of Cincinnati (UC) Cancer Institute
, one of four UC and UC Health collaborative centers of excellence for research, patient care and education. The UC Cancer Institute and Cincinnati Children’s Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute together form the Cincinnati Cancer Center, a joint cancer initiative aimed at advancing cancer care faster through innovative research.