I am delighted to be writing to you about the Medical Physics Residency Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper.
Medical physicists, before the advent of residency programs, typically entered the workforce directly from graduate school. I was incredibly fortunate that my first job was at William Beaumont Hospital, in Michigan, where I had the privilege of working with many great medical physicists, including fourteen AAPM fellows, and receiving broad-based training on cutting-edge technology in a dynamic and stimulating environment.
I was lucky. Many “first jobs” in medical physics weren’t so conducive to professional development. Too often, new graduates could be asked to work in isolation as the sole physicist at a clinic, with little mentoring, feedback, or support. They may be asked to serve only a narrow clinical function, such as linac QA and chart checks, with little exposure to the full range of technology and duties a medical physicist could have familiarity with.
I see residency as, in effect, an effort to guarantee new physicists a favorable “first job” environment. A residency should guarantee close access to collegial, experienced physicists for feedback and expertise. A residency should guarantee a broad range of duties: not just QA and chart checks, but brachytherapy, treatment planning, commissioning, and so on. A residency should guarantee a department equipped with up-to-date technology and committed to clinical improvement and modern safety and quality practices.
Residency programs are responsible for upholding CAMPEP educational standards, but I don’t see residency as an extension of school. Before the advent of residency programs, you would already be a junior physicist with clinical responsibilities. In that spirit, I see residents as physicists not students, and my expectation is that graduates will be experienced medical physicists, not someone just ready for their first job. In the end, a residency has to take you farther than two years of being traditionally “on-the-job.”
Before coming to the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, I was a residency director and also built a certificate program from scratch. I’ve thought a lot about medical physics training, and I hope this is reflected in our residency program. I think we have a great staff for this, engaged and enthusiastic about their work. Year after year, in “employee engagement” surveys, our physicists and dosimetrists have scored in the 99th-percentile nationally, reflecting the dedication with which they approach their work and bring to residency training. In 2019, we were a finalist for the AAPM Innovations in Medical Physics Education award.
To all of you visiting our website and thinking of applying, welcome!
Leonard Kim, MS, AMusD, DABR
Chief Medical Physicist