November 26, 2019

My Richard L. Morin Fellowship Experience

By Ashley Rubinstein, PhD, a resident in the department of diagnostic and interventional imaging at UTHealth McGovern Medical School in Houston. Follow her on Twitter @AshleyMedPhys.

Dr. Rubenstein and Dr. Mahesh

The ACR is more than accreditation and medical physics is more than an annoying class.

Back in January, the ACR BOC approved the Richard L. Morin, PhD Fellowship in Medical Physics. Dr. Morin is a medical physicist and the Brooks-Hollern Professor Emeritus of Radiology at Mayo Clinic; he is also an ACR Fellow and Gold Medalist. I was humbled to be selected as the ACR’s inaugural Morin Fellow. The fellowship includes attending the ACR Annual Meeting, and also visiting Reston, Va., for a week at headquarters interacting, with ACR staff.

The ACR meeting is an excellent opportunity for early-career radiologists, radiation oncologists, and medical physicists to interact with peers, while learning about all that the ACR has to offer and how the organization works. Physics graduate students and residents interested in becoming involved with practice parameters and technical standards, healthcare economics, health policy, public affairs, and education would have much to gain from attending an ACR meeting. So why was I the only physicist-in-training in attendance?

If you ask any medical physics graduate student what the ACR does, they are likely to say that the ACR is an accrediting body or that the ACR teaches us how to best test the performance of imaging systems. Few know about the ACR’s economics and health policy efforts. One such effort involves a newly-approved CPT® code for medical physicist evaluation of skin dose following high-dose fluoroscopy procedures. While our therapy physics colleagues have long had a CPT code for some elements of their clinical work, this will be the first opportunity for diagnostic medical physicists to directly produce revenue for their services within a radiology operation.

At the meeting, I had the opportunity to participate in Capitol Hill Day, where ACR members discussed the Patient Access for Lifesaving Screening (PALS) Act, surprise billing, the Resident Education Deferred Interest (REDI) Act, and Medicare Access to Radiological Care Act (MARCA) with federal representatives. I also met with several leaders in medical physics (including Rick Morin, himself!) and participated on a Reference Committee at the Council Meeting. Through RFS presentations at the meeting, I learned that topics relevant to RFS members are also extremely relevant to medical physicists-in-training, such as corporatization, AI, job searching, and networking.

While I had a lot to learn about the ACR, it turned out that I also had an opportunity to share with other ACR members some of the important work that medical physicists are doing to support their clinics. The most common things I heard from radiologists and radiation oncologists at the meeting were, “What is it exactly that you do?” and “I really did not enjoy the medical physics course I had to take.”

At the bare minimum, medical physicists ensure compliance of medical equipment with federal and local regulations. They are also a valuable asset in the clinic, addressing patient and personnel dosimetry, as well as image quality concerns. They work with physicians and allied health personnel to develop imaging and therapy protocols, and they take the lead on quality assurance programs.
Similar to the ACR’s Imaging 3.0® initiative, a current hot topic in the medical physics community is Med Phys 3.0, “an initiative to redefine, reinvigorate, and promote the practice of sustainable excellence in medical physics.” It is hard to do this if we are only promoting medical physics within our own community.

There are many opportunities within the ACR for medical physicists, including committees, practice parameters, and technical standards. Physicists can make their voice heard on social media by joining the Voice of Radiology Blog Contributors Group. They can also participate in radiology advocacy and economics efforts. The more they expand their reach beyond the medical physics community, the better they will be able to demonstrate their value to the other radiological health professions.

After spending a week at the annual ACR meeting and another week at ACR headquarters as a Morin Fellow, I learned that the ACR and the medical physics community could better demonstrate their value to one another. The ACR does more than create accreditation documents and medical physicists do more than create tedious lectures. Moving forward, I hope to see more of a physicist presence within the ACR.