History of Program Development (CAMPEP Medical Physics Residency)

It is well established in radiation oncology that patient care relies not only on physicians, but also on radiation oncology physicists and other technical personnel.  Whereas, physicians have established residency programs, physicists have in the past lacked organized clinical training beyond individual apprenticeships or self-training on the job.  This was considered adequate in the early days of physics involvement in radiation oncology.  However, as radiation oncology has become increasingly more sophisticated and complex, this strategy is no longer acceptable.  The practice of hiring inadequately trained medical physicists, who are allowed to perform patient related tasks, must be discontinued.

The lack of proper clinical training of medical physicists reached a serious level in the late 1980’s.  There was, (and continues to be) an acute shortage of qualified clinical physicists, i.e., physicists with adequate clinical training and board certification.  There was (and continues to be) a growing abundance of physics graduates with little or no clinical training, applying (and being hired) for hospital positions.  The American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) recognized this problem, and in 1988-89 developed a comprehensive document entitled AAPM Report Number 36, “Essentials and Guidelines for Hospital‑Based Medical Physics Residency Training Programs”, 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 M.S. or Ph.D. 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 2006, AAPM Report 90, an update to Report 36, was published and is being followed by our program.  Former program director, Eric E. Klein, PhD, is an author.

In light of these developments, the Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University Medical Center Radiation Oncology Center formalized their previous “post-doctoral” training approach and established the Radiation Oncology Physics Residency Program in 1992.  Dr. James A. Purdy was the founding Director for the Physics Residency Program, and Dr. Eric Klein was Co-Director until 2003, when he became Director.  Sasa Mutic, Ph.D., took over as Director after Dr. Klein’s departure in 2015.  In 2016, the department recruited Dr. Rao Khan to lead the program.  Olga Green, Ph.D. serves as the Associate Director of the Physics Residency Program.

Since the program’s beginning, 37 physicists have completed their residency training.  In addition, there are five physicists currently receiving their physics residency training in this program.  The program is designed for up to six residents.  All of our graduates are practicing radiation oncology physicists, and have received their board certification or are in the process of obtaining certification.

Our program has been recognized for its excellence, as evidenced by prior recipients of the ASTRO/AAPM Physics Residency Program, Varian/AAPM and Elekta/AAPM Fellowship Awards.  In total, seven two-year awards were received.  Unfortunately, these fellowship awards no longer exist.