May 19, 2023 — By training alongside clinical faculty, staff and trainees, doctoral candidates in the UF College of Medicine’s medical physics graduate program gain experience that prepares them to not only become well versed in the basic science disciplines needed to develop and use diagnostic imaging, medical radiation treatments, devices and technologies, but also to possess a deep understanding of their clinical implications.
Housed under the department of radiology, the program has seen significant growth in recent years that has led to great success. This spring, all five graduates matched with participating diagnostic imaging medical physics residency programs, securing nearly 22% of the 23 available slots and marking UF as the program with the most medical physics residency matches in the nation this year. The students are matched with programs through the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs, or CAMPEP.
UF has had a medical physics program for the past 60 years, though its home base has bounced between various departments at the College of Medicine and the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. Manuel Arreola, Ph.D., DABR, vice chair of the department of radiology and director of the medical physics graduate program, said since the program made its most recent move from the engineering college back to the College of Medicine in 2017 under the department of radiology, the program has experienced an “explosion” of growth and has quickly gained standing as a reputable program across the U.S. and globally.
“Coming back to the College of Medicine was a real emotional jumpstart for the program,” he said. “It’s in part because we have been given so much support by the chairs of the different collaborating departments, by the deans and by the hospital itself.”
The program has grown from 15 students in 2016 — ten of them fully funded by the department — to 45 students in 2023, with 42 of them fully funded by the participating departments.
A major secret to the program’s success, Arreola said, is that doctoral candidates in UF’s program participate in clinical activities and conduct clinical research, working alongside College of Medicine clinical faculty, with access to equipment like MRI and CT scanners. By contrast, most medical physics departments across the nation have a primary focus in basic science research.
“Not every medical physics program in the country has that clinical characteristic,” he said. “We have known for several years now that our graduates are very sought-after because now the programs in the country know how well-trained they are.”
Speaking to its international reputation, the program recently signed a memorandum indicating a further intent to collaborate with Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico City. Arreola will also soon travel to Brazil to sign another memorandum with the medical physics program at the University of São Paulo.
“Our students’ tremendous successes and these opportunities are an accomplishment not only of the graduate program but also of the faculty of the medical physics division whom the students train under,” Arreola said.