Fellow working with proton equipment at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Graduate medical education in radiation oncology at Mayo Clinic

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The one-year Radiation Oncology Clinical Medical Physics Proton Fellowship at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota, is designed for candidates who have a Ph.D. in medical physics or a closely related field, have recently completed a Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP)-accredited medical physics residency program, and are interested in specializing in proton therapy. This is not a CAMPEP-accredited residency program.

The fellowship focuses on the medical application of physics in proton therapy and includes both research and clinical experience related to medical physics aspects of proton therapy.

The proton fellows work with a team of medical physicists, radiation oncologists, dosimetrists, therapists and medical physics assistants at Mayo Clinic's pencil beam scanning (PBS) proton therapy facility in Rochester.

Program highlights include:

  • Learning the advantages of charged particle therapy and understanding the difference between photon and proton treatments as related to dose distributions, integral dose, geometric uncertainties, and more
  • Becoming familiar with typical accelerator systems and how the specifications of particular systems impact patient treatment quality
  • Performing proton treatment planning for a variety of different treatment sites and learning the best practices for producing robust, high-quality PBS plans
  • Performing patient-specific quality assurance measurements using a variety of tools, including ion chamber arrays and films
  • Understanding unique radiological hazards and shielding requirements for proton therapy installations
  • Performing and validating beam commissioning measurements and CT scanner calibrations for proton treatment plans
  • Providing clinical coverage, including:
    • Dosimetry physicist — working with dosimetrists and radiation oncologists to produce high-quality proton treatment plans
    • Gantry physicist — working with therapists at the machine to treat patients
    • Simulation physicist — working with therapists and radiation oncologists to immobilize and CT patients in the most optimal setup for proton planning and delivery
  • Engaging in clinically focused research and quality improvement projects in proton therapy
  • Training provided under the close supervision of experienced radiation oncology physicists in a large, state-of-the-art proton therapy center utilizing a Hitachi ProBeat synchrotron-based system with four pencil beam scanning gantry rooms
  • Hands-on and evaluated experience in all clinical aspects of radiation oncology physics of proton therapy
  • Ability to practice independently in proton therapy by the time you complete the program
  • Research training and experience through mentored projects that culminate in the development of clinical protocols, conference presentations and peer-reviewed scientific publications

Employment opportunities

Nationwide, there is continued growth in the area of proton therapy but relatively few educational opportunities in the field. Individuals graduating from this program are expected to be strong candidates for junior faculty and/or clinical positions at prominent proton therapy institutions around the country.

Program history

The Radiation Oncology Clinical Medical Physics Proton Fellowship is a new program starting in 2016, a year after Mayo Clinic's proton facility became operational. The program brings in one or two positions each year, with the option of extending each position an additional year.

The Radiation Oncology Clinical Medical Physics Residency and Fellowship, a CAMPEP-accredited residency-fellowship program that provides the foundations for this new program, began in 1997 and has between six and nine fellows enrolled at a time.

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