Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

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medphys
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby medphys » Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:11 pm

I'm currently finishing up my PhD in Medical Physics from a fairly well-known CAMPEP-accredited program. Prior to this, I was working full-time at non-medically related laboratory. Prior to that, I got my BS in physics. These are only my opinions based on what I have experienced. It is generally negative, but I cannot comment about the experience of others. I am not interested in arguing or offending anyone. Please bear this in mind when reading it:

1. Getting into a MP graduate program is much harder than the program itself. Most of the MP classes were very easy. Grad classes in physics, EE, etc. (some of which I also took optionally) were much more rigorous. If you have a BS in physics, math, or engineering, you'll be fine. (The anatomy/radiology classes weren't that hard.) For biologists and chemists, the road may be a little more difficult, but still doable.
Personally, I think if you have a BS degree you're over-qualified for these "graduate level" MP programs. My advisor couldn't understand some of my work because it involves a matrix multiplication. Yet, the getting into the program requires linear algebra (at least "on paper") Taking the Physics GRE for MP admissions is kind of silly - the truth is, a lot of the MP faculty probably wouldn't do well on the Physics GRE themselves. The standard MP textbooks remind me more of high school text books than undergraduate textbooks.

2. The MP education is too superficial to be useful outside of a clinic or residency program. As a PhD in MP, you're not qualified to do traditional physics or engineering, but you are over-qualified to be a technician (for which there are many more jobs available than MP). If you want something other than a clinical MP position, you will have to rely on your undergraduate education - the graduate MP education is mostly empty jargon.

3 Most MPs are not as mathematically literate as actual physicists or some engineers. The MP professors in my department were not at the same level as professors in other departments or my coworkers in a professional setting. Even the math that I learned as a sophomore/junior (e.g. linear algebra, differential equations, etc.) seems to be ignored, or not understood, by most MPs. In short, MP training is not adequate, by itself, to compete with those coming from more traditional backgrounds. I believe this is true in an academic and professional setting.

4 MP has a "memorize it" mentality - not an "understand it" mentality.

5 Outside of radiologists and radiation oncologists, the medical community has never heard of MP as a topic or profession. Most of them seem to think that MPs are like chief technologists. However, when it comes to making decisions about purchasing equipment, etc., the MP is not involved. It is usually a physician who makes the purchase while at a conference. The MP is not consulted. When it comes time to fix it, the MP will be dragged in. In short, having a PhD in MP does not earn the same respect as an MD in a clinical setting. The hospital is still MD "territory". The anonymity of MP is also apparent when job-seeking for non-clinical positions; most hiring managers have their own impression of "physicist" or "biomedical engineer", but have probably not even heard of a MP. This title change causes confusion, believe it or not. On most applications, the "Degree" field doesn't even list MP as an option.

6 MP research revolves mostly around quality control, not original methods or new phenomena. For example, an MP might test how well a given algorithm works for reducing imaging artifacts. A physicist, mathematician, or engineer, however, is probably the one who actually developed the algorithm mathematically and computationally. Practicing MP definitely isn't practicing science or medicine; I'm not sure if it could be considered engineering.

7 Some of the non-clinical professors in my MP program consider the clinical MP as a "glorified technician". Having worked with some clinical MPs, I can see their point. Most of the time is spent installing, repairing, testing, and calibrating their devices. In addition, when repairs are necessary, the MP may need to call in the manufacturer's field technician due to the specialized components, software, etc.

8 MP is still not a well-defined or well-established field of study. It is more of a "trade" or "profession" rather than an actual subject. My studies in MP feel more like trade school than grad school.

9 CAMPEP accreditation is kind of silly. When applying or renewing the accreditation, a department must be audited (by AAPM members outside of the department) and pay a fee. The department is basically paying a recurring fee to proclaim that they adhere to the low CAMPEP standards. Unfortunately, it has become the norm within the MP community. Within the last several years, the number of newly accredited programs has increased dramatically. I don't know if the educational quality, overall, has actually improved or been standardized.

10 Some MP programs (including my own) seem to hire only alumni as faculty. I do not think this is a good thing. For the sake of fresh ideas, it is good to involve non-alumni. I've also noticed that the faculty who have been there the longest tend not to work well with other long-time faculty members. I have even seen this with faculty who were former PhD students of other faculty. This "inbreeding" seems to cause friction of the long term. In addition, most of the faculty went through the watered-down MP curriculum as students, and end up teaching watered-down classes to the next generations when they become faculty. I have seen more positive results with faculty who came from the "outside".

11 Some MP programs may have exclusive deals with some manufacturers. As a result, it will be difficult to get help if you happen to be working on a system sold by another manufacturer. Even something as simple as getting raw data from a scanner will be restricted.

12 MP seemed to be focused on getting applicable results, instead of just hypothetical ones. Applicability is key. I think this makes sense given the nature of the work. Complicated algorithms or equipment are elegant, but not always reliable or easy to interpret (working in the clinical setting doesn't not allow for much time to interpret results like an equation)

13 Working as an MP in a hospital is a decent, stable job, but doesn't seem to allow for much room to develop new skills or get professional growth after a "chief physicist" position. There's always more technical intricacies to learn, but I sometimes wonder what happens to an MP who has been working for several years but decides to make a career change. I don't know of MP skills that are transferable. It might be hard to go back to doing original research if only quality control was done for the last several years. By that time, any of the science and math has been forgotten over time.

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twistor
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby twistor » Tue Jul 17, 2012 3:16 pm

srw wrote:Just to chime in...
Background: I am a clinical Medical Physicist. I graduated from an ABET accredited Nuclear Engineering program with a BS. I graduated from a CAMPEP accredited Medical Physics Program. I have completed Parts 1 and 2 of the ABR certification process and am planning to finish Part 3 in two months if all goes according to plan. I work in Therapy Physics.

In my opinion, the prospective student should decide on a research oriented path or a clinically oriented path. This will decide which program is for you. Ask students currently enrolled in the program you are interested in: Are you receiving clinical training? Are you receiving Research mentoring? What do you feel your program prepares you to do once you graduate?

Also, Medical Physics is by nature an application of physics, not in theoretical the realm. Those who want to ponder the nature of the universe for pay will not be happy. Those who want to work in a Para-medical profession, may find some measure of happiness.

The job market is less than anticipated. You will hear this in every field during an economic downturn. No Medical Physics is not immune. The aging population of workers that might have retired in a good economic time are waiting. The expected shortage of physicists has not occurred.

To the poster who claims that Medical Physicists do not know how to derive the Klein-Nishina - no one from my program escaped without being required to demonstrate that competency (both undergrad and graduate.) Please do not imply that we don't understand what we are doing. Do I derive the crossections everyday at work - no.

Is there way more memorization than derivation in the day to day work. OF COURSE. We provide guidance and answers to physicians and less trained employees, who have instant answer needs. That does not excuse or allow for lack of understanding of first principles.

The best coursework for clinical physics work would be a nuclear engineering undergrad, with a Physics minor including modern physics and E&M, and anatomy and physiology. I hope you find this helpful.


You sound experienced and highly qualified. A couple of comments:

To the poster who claims that Medical Physicists do not know how to derive the Klein-Nishina - no one from my program escaped without being required to demonstrate that competency (both undergrad and graduate.) Please do not imply that we don't understand what we are doing. Do I derive the crossections everyday at work - no.


I believe you are referring to my statement here. I'm not sure we're working from the same definition of the word "derive". A rigorous derivation of the Klein-Nishina cross-section requires quantum electrodynamics and would not generally be taught to undergraduates in physics. I don't know about nuclear engineering but I doubt undergrads are taking classes in QFT/QED. I'm not saying medical physicists in general don't know how to apply this knowledge, only that they don't fully understand it's origins.

Ask students currently enrolled in the program you are interested in: Are you receiving clinical training? Are you receiving Research mentoring? What do you feel your program prepares you to do once you graduate?


These are all excellent questions and you should try to ask them to as many students in the departments as you can. There might be some dissension but for the most part students will probably agree on the answer. Interrogate dissenters further to find out if their dissension is based on reality.

ralhakeem
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby ralhakeem » Thu Jul 19, 2012 3:42 pm

Give it some time and become clinically reliable. Become trusted and you will be included in the decisions. From your answers you are green. Why would they ask your opinion. You know enough to be dangerous. Relax, spend the time, learn the trade, and you will be rewarded.

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twistor
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby twistor » Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:33 pm

ralhakeem wrote:Give it some time and become clinically reliable. Become trusted and you will be included in the decisions. From your answers you are green. Why would they ask your opinion. You know enough to be dangerous. Relax, spend the time, learn the trade, and you will be rewarded.


Whom are you replying to?

ralhakeem
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby ralhakeem » Fri Jul 20, 2012 1:26 pm

To Medphys

medphys
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby medphys » Fri Jul 20, 2012 5:31 pm

ralhakeem wrote:To Medphys



Hi ralhakeem,

Your advice about patience is thoughtful and level-headed. However, when I said that MPs aren't taken seriously by other physicians, I said this based on my exposure with clinical MPs (with 20+ years of experience). Like every business, there is a pecking order within the hospital setting. Due to the relative invisibility of MP as a practice, most MPs don't rank very highly within the order. Most physicians, even those working in the hospital, have never even heard of MPs. Also, a PhD doesn't command the same respect as an MD in a clinical setting (the same way an MS doesn't command the same respect as a PhD in academia). It's a simple case of "might makes right". Even within an academic hospital, the PhD-level faculty may not have a tenured positions (even if MDs do).

Most decisions regarding which scanners to purchase etc. are made my physicians on the conference showrooms. Most of the time, it is because they worked out a good deal or the salesperson told them something they wanted to hear. The actual performance metrics of each scanner aren't really understood by most physicians, the same way that most people buying a car probably don't know how most of its systems work. Few, if any, questions are asked before making the purchase. I have seen millions of dollars spent on these scanners, only to found out later that they don't do what the physician had in mind. Due to their own time constraints, most physicians don't care about "how" or "why"; they simply want to know "does it do what I want it to do?"

Amongst all of the healthcare workers, the technicians probably have the most day-to-day interaction with these devices. Their input should be counted as well since they know the most about the workflow, how to efficiently perform scans, etc. The average radiologist or oncologist probably wouldn't know the workflow used by the devices within their institutions. For the most part, however, the technicians' opinions are ignored as well. It is also clear that the software engineers at these companies (Phillips, Siemens, GE, etc.) have very limited experience actually doing scans; the user interfaces are terrible in some cases.

Having a good background and extensive experience in MP may make you qualified to help with these decisions.....but in real life it is not always about who is qualified. There are "cultural" norms to overcome as well. It is important to be aware of these things when you're working the real world. Anyone going into medicine, biomedical engineering, health administration, medical physics, etc. probably wants to contribute something positive to patient treatment, etc. While the sentiment is noble, they should know what they are really getting into. In addition, the job market for MPs is now terrible due, in part, to the bottleneck created by the ABR and/or CAMPEP. In short, the "system" is a mess - be prepared to do some maneuvering if you want to reach your destination.

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twistor
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby twistor » Mon Jul 23, 2012 12:44 pm

medphys wrote:In addition, the job market for MPs is now terrible due, in part, to the bottleneck created by the ABR and/or CAMPEP. In short, the "system" is a mess - be prepared to do some maneuvering if you want to reach your destination.


I find it interesting that you think the bottleneck is due to the ABR and CAMPEP requirements. Can you expand on this?

medphys
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby medphys » Mon Jul 23, 2012 3:55 pm

twistor wrote:
medphys wrote:In addition, the job market for MPs is now terrible due, in part, to the bottleneck created by the ABR and/or CAMPEP. In short, the "system" is a mess - be prepared to do some maneuvering if you want to reach your destination.


I find it interesting that you think the bottleneck is due to the ABR and CAMPEP requirements. Can you expand on this?


Sure. In short, forcing newly minted MPs to have to go through the clinical residencies before being able to complete all their formal training is bound to cause problems. The number of residency openings every year is small compared to that of number of MP graduates (~100). Even fewer of the openings will be devoted to diagnostic imaging (as opposed to radiation therapy). Furthermore, most residency programs will probably take students who have some connection(s) with the program. Like any other business, residents will not be chosen based solely on qualifications. Starting a residency program from scratch within a clinic won't be easy either. In short, MP graduates who want to pursue a MP career will be "squeezed" in or out. This is no different from what physicians go through now, particularly for fellowships after their residency. If they don't get into a fellowship of their choice, they will have to reapply for the next year. I don't know if this will apply to aspiring MPs.

Aside from the residencies, the new DMP (Professional Doctorate of Medical Physics) degree might confound things even more. At least with an MS or PhD, you can argue that you have a science/engineering training. If someone is shooting for an academic position, it might be hard to trump a 'PhD' with a 'DMP'. In industry, no one will probably know about the DMP degree (most people industry don't even know about medical physics in general). Having worked outside of MP, I can tell you that no recruiter is going to take the time to actually look up what a DMP degree is; any resumes with DMP will mostly likely be weeded out immediately.

Only within a few hospitals will the DMP degree be acknowledged; it remains to be seen whether or not they give preference to the DMP over the MS or PhD. In short, ABR and/or CAMPEP (not sure which one) has sanctioned this degree (it is already in place in a few universities), but it is quite a gamble for the students who wish to pursue it. I'm not sure if the students get a stipend for the 3-5 years of study.

In short, I don't have any faith in CAMPEP - it is just a way to standardize the MP education. Unfortunately, it is "normalizing" it to a fairly low standard. Anybody with a BS could easily pickup the CAMPEP material within a few weeks of reading. Most freshman and sophomore classes have more depth and breadth than the CAMPEP material.

Again, these statements are based on my experience (as a graduate student and working professional). I could be dead-wrong about all of it, but I'm just putting it out there in case any prospective students want an 'inside' point-of-view.

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twistor
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby twistor » Tue Jul 24, 2012 10:48 pm

medphys wrote:
twistor wrote:
medphys wrote:In addition, the job market for MPs is now terrible due, in part, to the bottleneck created by the ABR and/or CAMPEP. In short, the "system" is a mess - be prepared to do some maneuvering if you want to reach your destination.


I find it interesting that you think the bottleneck is due to the ABR and CAMPEP requirements. Can you expand on this?


Sure. In short, forcing newly minted MPs to have to go through the clinical residencies before being able to complete all their formal training is bound to cause problems. The number of residency openings every year is small compared to that of number of MP graduates (~100). Even fewer of the openings will be devoted to diagnostic imaging (as opposed to radiation therapy). Furthermore, most residency programs will probably take students who have some connection(s) with the program. Like any other business, residents will not be chosen based solely on qualifications. Starting a residency program from scratch within a clinic won't be easy either. In short, MP graduates who want to pursue a MP career will be "squeezed" in or out. This is no different from what physicians go through now, particularly for fellowships after their residency. If they don't get into a fellowship of their choice, they will have to reapply for the next year. I don't know if this will apply to aspiring MPs.

Aside from the residencies, the new DMP (Professional Doctorate of Medical Physics) degree might confound things even more. At least with an MS or PhD, you can argue that you have a science/engineering training. If someone is shooting for an academic position, it might be hard to trump a 'PhD' with a 'DMP'. In industry, no one will probably know about the DMP degree (most people industry don't even know about medical physics in general). Having worked outside of MP, I can tell you that no recruiter is going to take the time to actually look up what a DMP degree is; any resumes with DMP will mostly likely be weeded out immediately.

Only within a few hospitals will the DMP degree be acknowledged; it remains to be seen whether or not they give preference to the DMP over the MS or PhD. In short, ABR and/or CAMPEP (not sure which one) has sanctioned this degree (it is already in place in a few universities), but it is quite a gamble for the students who wish to pursue it. I'm not sure if the students get a stipend for the 3-5 years of study.

In short, I don't have any faith in CAMPEP - it is just a way to standardize the MP education. Unfortunately, it is "normalizing" it to a fairly low standard. Anybody with a BS could easily pickup the CAMPEP material within a few weeks of reading. Most freshman and sophomore classes have more depth and breadth than the CAMPEP material.

Again, these statements are based on my experience (as a graduate student and working professional). I could be dead-wrong about all of it, but I'm just putting it out there in case any prospective students want an 'inside' point-of-view.


I have to agree with you on this. I want to add that even though CAMPEP curriculum is supposed to be standardized CAMPEP accredited programs very widely in their depth and degree of clinical training. Some programs are heavily focused on research while other programs are highly clinically oriented. Thus, graduation from a CAMPEP accredited program says nothing about an applicant's prior clinical experience. I think you might have mentioned in an earlier post that CAMPEP accreditation is silly. This is also true as I know that some programs can become accredited without even having site visitations by the CAMPEP committee. They merely submit their curricula and if it is satisfactory the program is approved. My opinion on this is that CAMPEP is largely a tool to keep biomedical engineers and others with similar background from entering the field of medical physics.

Regarding the DMP and PDMP degrees, I agree that these are largely a joke. From what I understand they will be offered to people with Ph.D's in pure physics so that they can enter the field of medical physics. After completing the degree (which I believe is 1 or 2 years) they are then qualified to do a clinical residency in medical physics. The purpose of this seems to be to bring in revenue to medical physics departments by charging large fees to confer this degree. The other problem is that the PDMP is a non-research degree; it is something akin to MBA. I'm not quite sure what actually qualifies it to be called a doctoral degree. Only time will tell whether or not this degree is taken seriously.

Many job postings now request applicants be board eligible or to already have passed part 1 of the boards. Having said that, what is your view on ABR certification?

medphys
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby medphys » Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:06 pm

Hi Twistor,

You mentioned: "Many job postings now request applicants be board eligible or to already have passed part 1 of the boards. Having said that, what is your view on ABR certification?"

I really can't say too much about it since I haven't looked into it that carefully. Like yourself, the few MP-specific jobs listings that I've come across mention completion of part 1 of the ABR as a necessary qualification. Being eligible for the exam isn't enough nowadays. For decades, many successful MPs worked without completing any qualifying exam or specific degree (i.e. only a MS or PhD in MP). CAMPEP's attempt to standardize the MP education is misguided; ABR's attempt to standardize the MP qualifications is also misguided, in my opinion.

Given the crowded job market, my doubts about AAPM/CAMPEP/ABR etc, and my general lack of interest in clinical work, I have decided against pursuing a purely clinical position. I considered it early on, but realized that it wouldn't be a good fit for me. As a result, I am not taking the exam. I am interesting in imaging/biomedical engineering positions within industry. Again, this is just my opinion. The clinical MP may be a good fit for others.

As I mentioned previously, the clinical MP seems like a cushy job if you can get it, but what happens then? What skills are transferable? I don't think most MPs will be developing a lot of technical skills such as programming, testing hardware, etc. As for the "soft skills" such as project management, public speaking, business development, etc., I don't see that being an option with most MP positions either. In addition, if systems become more and more automated, the quality control might be done by a technologist. If so, there is no need to hire a MP. Even if one is needed occasionally, they can be hired on a contractual basis via private MP consulting firms. I'd be really interested in hearing from someone who has made a career switch out of MP to another position. How did he/she sell himself/herself to an employer outside MP?

I don't even know how much it costs to take part 1 of the exam. Some students in my institution have a study group for it, which I think would be useful. From what I hear, the actual "physics" in the exam is at a freshman/sophomore level (which may be adequate for clinical needs).

Having to spend time and money to take a test when you aren't sure of job availability does seem a little unfair to me, but because of the excess number of applicants, hiring managers can command it. To me, it's a strong indication of the current MP job market. Residents/fellows in medicine will usual take their exams while working (i.e. after finding a position). In some cases, being board-certified is just a resume-builder, and not legally required (as opposed to their medical license). I don't know for sure, but lawyers and patent agents aren't legally required to pass the bar exam to get a position in a law firm; keeping that position may be contingent on passing the exam within a specified amount of time. Passing the exam before you get the job, however, seems to be a defacto requirement to landing a job nowadays for them too.

In short, it is annoying to have to prepare and take a test not knowing what your job prospects will be. However, it is well within the rights of the hiring manager to demand whatever qualifications they want, whether it is a set of skills, particular degree, or passing of some exam... kind of like admission into a university.

Again, these are just my thoughts. If you are taking the exam, I wish you the best.

whittierca
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby whittierca » Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:20 am

I'm a senior physics major and I've recently become interested in pursuing a career in medical physics.

Since it is becoming more and more difficult to get a clinical job without ABR certification or eligibility, it would seem like a good idea to go to a CAMPEP accredited residency program for those going the clinical route. What is the best preparation for getting into a residency program? It was mentioned that having a PhD as opposed to a MS would make you more competitive. Why is that? How competitive are we talking, i.e. is having just a MS going to be a huge disadvantage when applying to residency programs? Also, some residencies seem to accept students mainly from their own graduate school, so for these residencies is it sufficient to get a MS in their graduate school? My end goal is to get a clinical job, so I don't want to spend time obtaining a PhD if it's not going to help me any better than a MS would. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

medphys
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby medphys » Thu Jul 26, 2012 1:46 pm

whittierca wrote:I'm a senior physics major and I've recently become interested in pursuing a career in medical physics.

Since it is becoming more and more difficult to get a clinical job without ABR certification or eligibility, it would seem like a good idea to go to a CAMPEP accredited residency program for those going the clinical route. What is the best preparation for getting into a residency program? It was mentioned that having a PhD as opposed to a MS would make you more competitive. Why is that? How competitive are we talking, i.e. is having just a MS going to be a huge disadvantage when applying to residency programs? Also, some residencies seem to accept students mainly from their own graduate school, so for these residencies is it sufficient to get a MS in their graduate school? My end goal is to get a clinical job, so I don't want to spend time obtaining a PhD if it's not going to help me any better than a MS would. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Hi Whittierca,

As I mentioned in the previous posts, I'm finishing up my PhD, but not pursuing the clinical route. Everything I say here is simply my impression of the situation.

"What is the best preparation for getting into a residency program?"

I would say that the best preparation for getting into a residency program is to go to a CAMPEP-accredited school with both a MS/PhD program and a residency program. You can find these out on the CAMPEP website. However, be sure to ask how many of their MS/PhD students go into their residency programs every year, where do the other graduates go, etc. Ask lots of questions (especially if you're doing a on-site interview). Not all programs are straight-forward about how things are run, and the current MP situation in general. Some websites are out-of-date or just don't connect with reality. The other thing to note is that most residencies are focused on radiation therapy (as opposed to diagnostic imaging). You might want to specialize in radiation therapy even at the MS-level if possible.

With your goals (MS-level and clinical experience prior to a residency), you sound like you'd be a good fit for the recently developed Professional Doctorate in Medical Physics (DMP) degree. At the moment, I think the only school that offers it is Vanderbilt:

https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/dmp/

As I mentioned in previous posts, I think getting this degree is a huge gamble, but I just wanted to make you aware of it in case you wanted to look into it (and no.... I'm not a recruiter for Vanderbilt:)

"It was mentioned that having a PhD as opposed to a MS would make you more competitive. Why is that? How competitive are we talking, i.e. is having just a MS going to be a huge disadvantage when applying to residency programs?"

Good question - I don't think anyone real knows. In the current market, the number of PhD-level and MS-level applicants seem to far outweigh the number of open full-time and residency positions. (This may even be true if you count non-clinical positions such as universities, etc.). In short, there are more people with MP degrees (MS or PhD) and/or certification than people asking for MP degrees. Residency managers can pick and choose their new employees, so from their perspective, they can pick a PhD-level physicist, but pay him/her at a MS-level. It's just a matter of supply and demand. Keep in mind that if you're doing your MS, you'll be paying for the degree out-of-pocket, and the job market is pretty tough at the moment. Whether you're doing your MS or PhD, the best bet for residency (in my opinion) is to make personal, face-to-face connections beforehand. Of course, this is most easily done if you're a student at the same institution as the residency.

You might also want to consider what happens after your residency. You will be applying for full-time positions against other residency-trained MS and PhD-level candidates. It would be interesting to know how many residency-trained physicists have their MS or PhD, and how many of them find work after the residency. I don't know if this information is available anywhere. If the numbers are low, they won't be publicly available in order to save face and continue recruiting students.

I hope this is somewhat helpful. Best of luck with your career.

whittierca
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby whittierca » Tue Aug 07, 2012 6:59 pm

Thank you for the reply medphys. It was very helpful :)

Just another question (to anyone): I read here that the single most important thing a prospective medical physics student should do is find out which graduate programs command the most respect from residency directors, who often give weight to applicants who have worked with people they know. Where is the best place to get this information? If any of you have information about specific places, please comment if you don't mind sharing.

More generally, I find it difficult comparing all the graduate programs just from their site information. Are there specific things I should watch out for (e.g. good signs/red flags) or things I could email departments/people about?

medphys
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby medphys » Sat Aug 18, 2012 2:38 am

whittierca wrote:Thank you for the reply medphys. It was very helpful :)

Just another question (to anyone): I read here that the single most important thing a prospective medical physics student should do is find out which graduate programs command the most respect from residency directors, who often give weight to applicants who have worked with people they know. Where is the best place to get this information? If any of you have information about specific places, please comment if you don't mind sharing.

More generally, I find it difficult comparing all the graduate programs just from their site information. Are there specific things I should watch out for (e.g. good signs/red flags) or things I could email departments/people about?


Hi Whitterca,


I don't know of any source to find out who has clout within the residency programs. The field is still relatively small, so a lot of it is who you know or who is nearby. As a result, I would really try to find a grad program at a place that has a residency program (or is affiliated with one nearby).

When I was applying to grad programs, here are things I did... and the things I wish I did in hindsight:

1. Ask about statistics from the department for the last ~5 years. How many people graduated per year? How many incoming students? Where did the students end up? Don't rely on the department webpages - they are out-of-date and somewhat misleading. As an applicant, I once asked a program (at a well known university) how many PhD students graduated within the last few years. I was told that 1 PhD student graduated within the last ~10 years! All other students were MS students, even though the webpage gave the impression that the program was for both MS and PhD seeking students.

2. The biggest gamble is finding a lab/advisor with funding. At least half of the faculty on the webpage don't have funding to take on a new student at any given time. If you are set on a certain speciality (radiation therapy, for example), you need to find out how many open slots there will be by the time to get to the program. This information might be tough to get. In my own institution, a number of specialities are advertised on the webpage as having active research. The truth is, there are only a handful of specialities for which research opportunities truly exist for a PhD student.

3. One red flag - As I mentioned in a prior post, some of these medical physics departments only hire their own graduates as faculty..... I think this is a terrible practice. Not only does it breed stagnate teaching, but also indicates that a lot of what goes on happens because of favoritism, and not based on quality of work. Of course, this is true in any setting.

4. Keep in mind that clinical faculty don't do research as a priority. They are paid to keep the machines operating in the hospital (which takes up most of their time). If a program has too many clinical faculty, it is safe to say that your research won't be a priority. "Adjunct" faculty might be even less ideal since aren't really in the program to begin with.

5. If you are planning on taking the clinical route, you will need to go to a CAMPEP-accredited program. Don't trust a program if they say that they "will be accredited" in the near future..... who knows how "near" that could be?

6. In my experience, the "interdisciplinary programs" (as opposed to a medical physics program with faculty dedicated only to medical physics) are not worthwhile. Since the program is not the faculty's "home department", the medical physics education/research will always take a back seat to the established programs. The medical physics students will be considered an "afterthought".

7. During the on site interviews, the current grad students are not free to give their honest input when the faculty are around. Keep this in mind when visiting.

8. Another red flag - if you hear/see that many of the faculty are leaving the department, that indicates some internal political turmoil. In short, the program is being managed poorly. This is a bigger deal for a grad student than an undergrad. I had no idea how important management was until I saw how poorly my own program was being managed.

9. Another red flag - People love to talk about how many committees they sit on, conferences they chair, etc. If someone is doing all this, how are they going to have the time to be a decent mentor/advisor?

10. Another red flag - if a researcher doesn't have too many students/post-docs or collaborators, there is probably a reason for that. He/she takes on students reluctantly. You probably want to avoid him/her as an advisor if possible.

11. Another red flag - politics within a department can get pretty nasty. If an advisor is not on good terms with the rest of the department, life will be that much more difficult for you. Again, it is probably best that you avoid him/her as an advisor.

That's all I can think of for now. I wish the whole process of getting a PhD was more transparent, but, unfortunately, the real world politics will inevitable get in the way. I hope this tidbits of info help out somewhat.

ronab89
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby ronab89 » Mon May 20, 2013 12:45 am

I just had to log on and make a comment! Im pretty sure who ever posted this question is so confused on how to feel about a medical physics program being that most of them were bashed to hell! lol. I my self was also curious about the MP programs in the US and Canada and now im at a lost for words especially from the poster who responded first to this post. who ever they are they seem like a very disgruntled person and probably need to get into another program but any way.

I currently work at a hospital in an icu, work on plasma development in x-pinches, shadow a MP at my hospital and volunteer at a hospice center and Ill be graduating this fall with a degree in physics. I have a strong background in chemistry, biology and math since I was pre med before I switched to physics and was perusing a minor in math. For those that are actually in a MP program or are MP's can I get an actual overview of what to expect. I mean of course I don't think I will get too deep into physics which is something I dont want to do any way i find it boring. But the applications of physics interest me so please share.

To the poster of this question it seems like you will just have to visit some of the schools your self and make your overall decision. From my observation most of the people that replied to your post are upset that the program was not as "physics" based as they thought it was and were poorly prepared in other areas which i dont understand since you have to take electives for your major which is were engineering, biology, chem, programing etc classes would have come into play for that. But if you can I would suggest shadowing a MP at a hospital or a facility that has one to get the day to day just of what you will be doing once you graduate. Everything seems so exciting in school but once school is over and that is your job or career reality kicks in and you really have to love what you do so, I think, seeing an MP in action and asking them what MP school did they go to what they suggest and so on might help give you a well rounded opinion that will include a visual judgment of your own since you will be able to see this stuff for your self. Next week I will be able to watch a eye plaque brachytherapy procedure which is hella cool and I'm very excited to know that one day I will be apart of that. So I hope I helped and I hope you find a great MP program that fits you and if not that won't stop you from being a great MP its all what you make baby lol:)

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twistor
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Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby twistor » Wed May 22, 2013 12:24 pm

ronab89 wrote:I just had to log on and make a comment! Im pretty sure who ever posted this question is so confused on how to feel about a medical physics program being that most of them were bashed to hell! lol. I my self was also curious about the MP programs in the US and Canada and now im at a lost for words especially from the poster who responded first to this post. who ever they are they seem like a very disgruntled person and probably need to get into another program but any way.

I currently work at a hospital in an icu, work on plasma development in x-pinches, shadow a MP at my hospital and volunteer at a hospice center and Ill be graduating this fall with a degree in physics. I have a strong background in chemistry, biology and math since I was pre med before I switched to physics and was perusing a minor in math. For those that are actually in a MP program or are MP's can I get an actual overview of what to expect. I mean of course I don't think I will get too deep into physics which is something I dont want to do any way i find it boring. But the applications of physics interest me so please share.

To the poster of this question it seems like you will just have to visit some of the schools your self and make your overall decision. From my observation most of the people that replied to your post are upset that the program was not as "physics" based as they thought it was and were poorly prepared in other areas which i dont understand since you have to take electives for your major which is were engineering, biology, chem, programing etc classes would have come into play for that. But if you can I would suggest shadowing a MP at a hospital or a facility that has one to get the day to day just of what you will be doing once you graduate. Everything seems so exciting in school but once school is over and that is your job or career reality kicks in and you really have to love what you do so, I think, seeing an MP in action and asking them what MP school did they go to what they suggest and so on might help give you a well rounded opinion that will include a visual judgment of your own since you will be able to see this stuff for your self. Next week I will be able to watch a eye plaque brachytherapy procedure which is hella cool and I'm very excited to know that one day I will be apart of that. So I hope I helped and I hope you find a great MP program that fits you and if not that won't stop you from being a great MP its all what you make baby lol:)


You're a little late coming to this topic. The original post is almost 4 years old already. I have already said all I have to say on this topic so if after reading this thread and shadowing a physicist you find this field exciting then you should go for it.

ronab89
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby ronab89 » Wed May 22, 2013 1:49 pm

well twistor i can see why you dont enjoy medical physics your just too smart. look at you stating obvious facts OF COURSE I KNEW THE POST WAS OLD lucky for you i can read and still decided to post just as you have done SEVERAL TIMES! And what you had to say was too pessimistic to gain any information from so thank for the useless comment and any others after are TRULY unwanted by me.

blighter
Posts: 256
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby blighter » Wed May 22, 2013 2:56 pm

Oh, man. You crack me up.

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twistor
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby twistor » Thu May 23, 2013 1:18 pm

Oh, I get it.

Image

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twistor
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Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby twistor » Thu May 23, 2013 1:32 pm

To the poster of this question it seems like you will just have to visit some of the schools your self and make your overall decision.


look at you stating obvious facts OF COURSE I KNEW THE POST WAS OLD lucky for you i can read and still decided to post just as you have done SEVERAL TIMES!


There is no point in addressing the OP and telling him or her to "visit some of the schools" four years after the post was made. Therefore, I conclude that you had no idea this topic was old.

No one forced you to read this thread and certainly no one forced you to respond. You're welcome to disagree with me but you don't even have the grounds to do that properly, given that your only experience in medical physics thus far has been fetching coffee for clinicians.

beresjacob
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2012 7:12 am

Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby beresjacob » Mon Jun 24, 2013 8:14 am

I am a 4th-year undergraduate physics student looking to apply to medical physics graduate programs in the fall. My lists of schools to apply to includes:

Duke
UCLA
Chicago
Florida
Miami
Minnesota
Missouri
IUPUI
Wisconsin

And a basic breakdown of my academic record:

Two years at UCLA with 3.3 GPA overall and 3.5 GPA in physics courses.
One year at Wisconsin-Madison with a 3.65 GPA overall and 3.3 GPA in physics courses.

Research:

Two summers spent at CERN doing research on muon detection system for CMS.
One academic term with electronics testing for CMS at UCLA.
Two academic terms doing research on muon/neutrino detectors for IceCube at Wisconsin.

Recommendations:

2 recommendations from UCLA professors highly involved at CERN.
1 recommendation from the project manager that I worked for at CERN.
1 recommendation from a Wisconsin professor that advised me for my second trip to CERN.

No published papers or awards.

Based on practice GRE's, I am looking at getting a 630 verbal/800 quantitative.

I am taking a medical physics course this upcoming fall term and will hopefully get involved in research with a professor in the medical physics faculty.

Does anyone have an opinion if I even have a chance to get accepted to any of these schools? Please let me know your thoughts.

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twistor
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Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby twistor » Mon Jun 24, 2013 12:53 pm

beresjacob wrote:I am a 4th-year undergraduate physics student looking to apply to medical physics graduate programs in the fall. My lists of schools to apply to includes:

Duke
UCLA
Chicago
Florida
Miami
Minnesota
Missouri
IUPUI
Wisconsin

And a basic breakdown of my academic record:

Two years at UCLA with 3.3 GPA overall and 3.5 GPA in physics courses.
One year at Wisconsin-Madison with a 3.65 GPA overall and 3.3 GPA in physics courses.

Research:

Two summers spent at CERN doing research on muon detection system for CMS.
One academic term with electronics testing for CMS at UCLA.
Two academic terms doing research on muon/neutrino detectors for IceCube at Wisconsin.

Recommendations:

2 recommendations from UCLA professors highly involved at CERN.
1 recommendation from the project manager that I worked for at CERN.
1 recommendation from a Wisconsin professor that advised me for my second trip to CERN.

No published papers or awards.

Based on practice GRE's, I am looking at getting a 630 verbal/800 quantitative.

I am taking a medical physics course this upcoming fall term and will hopefully get involved in research with a professor in the medical physics faculty.

Does anyone have an opinion if I even have a chance to get accepted to any of these schools? Please let me know your thoughts.


Your academic record is very similar to those of other applicants I know who were accepted to a handful of those schools. I think you're chances are very high of being accepted somewhere.

baseballNphysics
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2016 2:08 am

Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby baseballNphysics » Thu Apr 07, 2016 2:24 am

I know this thread is old but it relates a bit to an inquiry that I have about medical physics graduate school in general. I am a senior undergrad currently, and about to embark on the grad school application journey. I was wondering if the CAMPEP accredited medical physics programs covered tuition, fees, insurance, provided per annum, etc. like most general physics PhD programs do. Does it depend on if the program is housed in the physics school or med school at a university by university basis? Or possibly whether it's a masters or PhD program? I am having trouble finding financial information (and any decent admissions information for that matter) on any websites with the exception of UT-Houston and Duke. Any information that people have on this topic would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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twistor
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Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby twistor » Fri Apr 08, 2016 8:49 pm

Funding varies from program to program. My advice would be to apply to programs you're interested in and worry about funding later. Most PhD programs will have some means of funding you. Most masters programs will not, plus it's tough to land a residency with just an MS if that's a path you're considering.

It doesn't depend on which department umbrella medical physics falls under. It mostly has to do with research and training grants and TA opportunities. Fees vary but shouldn't be too much of a burden. Insurance is definitely something to ask about but I think most universities provide some kind of student insurance plan.

flymetojupiter
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon May 23, 2016 7:00 am

Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby flymetojupiter » Mon May 23, 2016 10:32 am

I stumbled upon this thread while Googling, I hope there are still some people here who could help me gain some insight.

My background is bachelor degree in dentistry, and I am already offered a teaching position in Dentomaxillofacial Radiology Department in my almamater. Now, it is up to me to find suitable masters degree or specialist degree to continue my education after I finished my bachelor degree, and right now I am considering a degree in Medical Physics (MP).

I have some questions and concerns about MP that I would like to address. (Please be advised that I know next to nothing about medical physics world, and neither does my professor, so I am going to ask the most basic questions, please bear with me.)

Firstly, this is my biggest concern: How heavy are the courses, when it comes to math, physics, or engineering? I had extremely good grades in math and physics during high school (I also enjoyed studying them), and am familiar with the concepts of quantum physics just because I like to read about them, but that's about it. I had no undergraduate-level math/physics classes, which I imagine is quite different than high-school level ones. I know the comments above me indicate that MP tend to have less advanced mathematics than traditional physics degree, but do you think someone like me would be able to catch up?

Secondly, how beneficial do you think an MP degree to my career? Like I implied, I am going to be an academic in clinical, diagnostic imaging. In my day to day job, I would be practicing as radiologist aside from teaching, but I would definitely want to do research in advanced imaging.

Thirdly, what topics/skills should I learn before applying for an MP postgraduate? Like calculus, certain physical concepts, etc? What books do you recommend?

Lastly, could you give me an overview about what exactly an MP learns in their education? I of course had seen course details in faculty websites, but maybe there are some details or insights I should know?

Right now, I'm thinking to gain my degree in UK, do you have any recommendations for good MP programme there?

Thank you.

AnastasiiaO
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Sep 03, 2017 3:43 pm

Re: Anyone in a Medical Physics program have an opinion on it?

Postby AnastasiiaO » Sun Sep 03, 2017 3:49 pm

Employment opportunities for recent physics bachelor's degree recipients exist in all areas of the economy.
Below, you will find a great source of a portion of the employers who recently hired new physics graduates to fill science and engineering positions.
Jooble Job search engine https://uk.jooble.org/jobs-physics

The many high schools, colleges, and universities that hire physics bachelor's are not included in the state listings. Degree recipients enlisted in branches of the military are also not included, but civilians employed by the military are.

These listings will be useful to recent graduates by illustrating the diversity of employers who hired physics bachelor's. The list can also be used by physics departments wishing to develop or strengthen contacts with employers in their area.




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