The new U-M Medical Physics Certificate Program, a collaboration between the Rackham Graduate School, U-M Radiation Oncology department and the NERS department, has been approved by CAMPEP, the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs.
The CAMPEP approval paves the way for students who earn the certificate to apply to medical physics residency programs, including the Medical Physics Residency Program at UM.
Doctoral candidate Molly McCulloch (NERS MSE ’15) plans to officially enroll in the program after completing her PhD. Feeling a pull toward the health care field after earning a master’s degree, McCulloch began shadowing Michigan Medicine radiation oncologists, since she was more familiar with their work than that of other medical specialties. One of the doctors suggested she consider medical physics. That suggestion ultimately led her to Associate Professor Kristy Brock, who now is her advisor.
“I’m excited to start the research that I will focus on for my thesis, looking at the uncertainties between planned and delivered dose in radiation therapy plans,” said McCulloch.
With academic and professional experience in the areas of nuclear nonproliferation, oil-well services, radiation detection and neutron generation, certificate candidate Jennifer Dolan (BSE ’08, MSE ’09, PhD ’13) was looking for an application area that matched her passion for nuclear science and technology. After considering opportunities in nuclear engineering and talking with NERS alumni, “it became obvious that the medical physics field was the right fit,” Dolan said.
To attain CAMPEP accreditation, programs submit a self-assessment report that provides evidence of compliance with requirements. A survey team then conducts an on-site visit. Accreditation is granted for an initial period of three years followed by a re-review and then continuing accreditation every five years after that.
“CAMPEP approval is an important milestone for our Medical Physics Certificate Program, since it enables our students to go on to pursue medical residencies at top, competitive programs,” said Ron Gilgenbach, NERS department chair. “Accreditation was no small task, and the department is grateful to everyone who worked diligently to achieve approval.”
The team included Program Director Martha Matuszak, an associate professor in Radiation Oncology with a joint appointment in NERS, along with Brock and other members of the Medical Physics Certificate Committee. The Program’s co-director, Professor Kim Kearfott (NERS), Professor Alex Bielajew (NERS), and senior graduate program coordinators Peggy Gramer and Garnette Roberts also were instrumental.
The Medical Physics Certificate Program is open to students with a PhD in physics, engineering or a medical-physics-related science field.
The program includes six core courses and approved electives. Topical areas include radiological physics and dosimetry; radiation protection and safety; fundamentals of imaging in medicine; radiobiology; anatomy and physiology; and radiation therapy physics.
Upon completing the certificate program, McCulloch plans to apply for residencies to pursue a career in clinical medical physics. “Upon completing residency, I will hopefully look at faculty positions. I love the idea of doing clinical and academic work,” she said.
Dolan, too, plans to pursue a residency in order to become a board certified clinical medical physicist. “An appealing aspect of the medical physics field is the ability to take part in both clinical and research activities,” she said. “I believe that by practicing in a given field you are more likely to identify areas of research that will have immediate impacts on the practice and the people it serves.”