The lack of proper clinical training of medical physicists reached a serious level in the late 1980s. The American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) recognized this problem, and in 1988-89 developed a comprehensive document entitled “Essentials and Guidelines for Hospital‑Based Medical Physics Residency Training Programs” (AAPM Report No. 36), which established the educational and administrative requirements for a hospital-based residency training program. The AAPM Report recommended two years of clinical physics training beyond an MS or PhD degree in physics or a closely related field. The organization of the recommended program was patterned after physician residency programs. In the words of the committee that developed the recommendations, “this document will hopefully encourage the development of a high quality clinical medical physics instructional environment on a nationwide basis and make an important contribution to the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare.”
In light of these developments, the Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology formalized their previous “post-doctoral” training approach and in 1992, established the Radiation Oncology Physics Residency Program. James A. Purdy, PhD, was the founding Director for the Physics Residency Program, and Eric Klein, PhD, was Co-Director until 2003, when he became Director. Sasa Mutic, PhD, took over as Director after Dr. Klein’s departure in 2015. In 2016, the department recruited Rao Khan, PhD, to lead the department’s overall medical physics educational program, with Olga Green, PhD serving as the Director of the Physics Residency Program.
Since the program’s beginning, 41 physicists have completed their residency training, with 5 physicists currently receiving their physics residency training in this program. The program is designed for up to 8 residents. 100% of our graduates have entered into medical physics positions in the field immediately after graduation, and approximately a third of our graduates are currently in leadership positions. Our training program has also resulted in a 100% success rate for our graduates obtaining board certification (with 97% passing on the first try).
Our program has been recognized for its excellence, as evidenced by prior receipt of the ASTRO/AAPM Physics Residency Program, Varian/AAPM, and Elekta/AAPM Fellowship Awards. In total, seven two-year awards were received during the period in which these awards were offered.