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Hofstra University Wins Award for Innovation in Education

Hofstra Medical Physics program wins AAPM award with Novel Industry Cooperative Program.

Hofstra University Wins Award for Innovation in Education

The 2021 AAPM Award for Innovation in Medical Physics Education went to Hofstra University’s Medical Physics program for their Cooperative Education Program. Their award winning program exposes students to career opportunities that lie outside the normal career paths, which typically consist of postdoctoral research or clinical medical physics via board certification. It does so by introducing students to non-clinical roles through cooperative internships. These internship opportunities lie in various sectors of industry, including a medical physics consulting group, an intellectual property law firm, and with Radformation. The award, given to medical physics education programs that are truly innovative in nature, is presented yearly and is supported by the estate of Dr. Harold Marcus.

What is a Cooperative Education Program?

The cooperative education program, or co-op, is a program which combines a standard education curriculum with professional work experience. Taken as a zero credit course, the students participate in the co-op while also taking classes. All co-op positions are paid, providing convenient and relevant part time work to graduate students. According to Dr. Adam Riegel of Hofstra University, there are more students graduating from medical physics programs than there are residency positions to support them. This is an issue that can be addressed if students know where to look for alternative career paths that make use of an education in medical physics. Enter the co-op program.
Dr. Adam Riegel, Hofstra University’s Medical Physics program director, saw a problem with the standard progression for students in Medical Physics. The path towards a career in medical physics is simple, or so it appears on paper: a Master’s degree or PhD in Medical Physics, followed by residency or post-doctoral research, and board certification. The issue is that in 2019, there were 284 graduates of MS/MSc, DMP, and PhD programs potentially pursuing residency positions. However, there were only 176 residency slots. The cooperative education program is a tool to provide options for graduates who are left searching for something outside of residency.

Radformation x Cooperative Education

Radformation is one of the industry options available for Hofstra co-op participants. Radformation develops software that provides intelligent automation in radiation oncology, enabling cancer clinics to make the most of their time. Students that work with Radformation through the co-op program can get a look behind the curtain to how these products are created, maintained, and marketed.

Students that participate in the co-op with Radformation can expect a variety of projects and tasks, including (but certainly not limited to) developing or expanding programs, contributions to the blog, and helping with medical physics surveys and credits certificates. Radformation does a fantastic job of finding work that suits the student’s interests and abilities. Beyond that, and perhaps more importantly, students can expect to gain insight into the issues and workflow struggles that clinics are experiencing today, as well as the solutions to those issues. At the same time, students can gain new perspectives on career opportunities outside the clinic, as some recent co-op participants have:

Carly Showalter
Medical Physicist, AutoContour Team

“The Hofstra Co-op program offers a unique experience to the grad students. Most programs have an intense clinical focus, which of course is necessary, but for me as I went through Hofstra I was unsure that the clinic is where I wanted to end up. The co-op program with Radformation gave me an opportunity to see into a whole different world of medical physics, it allowed me to see the different paths I could follow besides clinical work. Not only was I now able to see the different paths I could follow, but I gained actual experience that I could use to follow my chosen path in the future.”

Kevin Crotteau
2020 Hofstra Medical Physics Graduate

“The co-op is a valuable experience for anyone looking to gain insight on career paths and opportunities in medical physics beyond just the clinical route. Currently much of our field emphasizes graduate school, then residency, then work in the clinic, which can pose a problem for those looking to pursue other routes and increase competition for a limited number of spots. By offering the co-op students have the option to engage with industry and gain valuable experience and skills that can’t be found in the traditional route.”

According to Elisabeth Van Wie, Radformation co-founder, “The co-op can be a great tool to expand students’ understanding of what opportunities are available.” But it’s a two-way street, with the students providing meaningful contributions to projects at Radformation. There are many ways a medical physics education can be utilized, and it also gives Radformation reliable interns who are interested in the work that they do.

Moving The Needle in Education

Hofstra University has done a fantastic job at providing students with a wide array of resources, exposing them to new and exciting opportunities outside of the normal clinical exposure a Master’s student would get. As a current intern for Radformation through the co-op program, I can say that I already have a stronger grasp on the radiation oncology workflow and the issues that Radformation can remedy through their products. In talking to past participants, it is abundantly clear that the Hofstra cooperative education program is an invaluable resource in medical physics education.

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