San Diego State University has a long-standing tradition of providing health physics and medical physics education. During the early 1960s the Physics Department under the direction of Dr. Lester Skolil established a Radiological Physics option within the Master of Science in Physics. At the outset, the program received funding from the Atomic Energy Commission. That was the beginning of a standing commitment by the University to support graduate education in an essential area of great importance for our country. Our program provided students with a combination of lecture courses, laboratory, activity, and internship experience. In 1972 the option became a separate degree titled “Radiological Health Physics “. By separating the program out from the traditional physics degree we were able to expand our offerings to students with a strong focus directed to radiation physics, dosimetry, and protection.
For over 40 years SDSU has provided an educated workforce of radiation protection professionals. Our output of health physicists is well beyond ten-fold of any other educational institution within the state of California. During the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s our program carried a strong emphasis in power reactor health physics. This emphasis was strongly supported by health physics professionals and the growing facilities of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).
Then in the 90s SDSU experienced the same downturn in nuclear education that was occurring throughout the United States. Therefore, the reactor health physics emphasis came to a halt. The graduate program in Radiological Health Physics continued within other areas such as medical, and general radiation protection with Dr. Patrick Papin as the Program Director. The Master of Sciences in Radiological Health Physics was then merged with the Master of Science in Physics with the option to specialize in Medical Physics/ Radiation Health Protection. Between 1995 and 2007, our program graduated over 45 medical physicists; a large percentage of these subsequently specialized in radiation therapy physics.
In the fall of 2007, Dr. Usha Sinha joined as the Chair of the Physics Department and the Director of the Radiological Health Physics program. The Master’s program in Radiological Health Physics was reinstated in fall 2008 and since January 2010, the program has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Educational Programs (CAMPEP). In the fall of 2013, the official name was changed to ‘Medical Physics’ to accurately reflect the training offered in the program.
The Masters of Science in Medical Physics at San Diego State University is designed to prepare students for a career as a Medical Physicist in hospitals and in industry or for PhD and clinical residency programs. Students will acquire the required skill sets through didactic, laboratory and clinical internships designed in accordance with the guidelines of Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Educational Programs (CAMPEP). This training is reinforced by clinical internships and research projects in radiation therapy physics and in diagnostic imaging. A close relationship with community hospitals (e.g. Naval Medical Center San Diego, Genesis Healthcare, Sharp Grossmont, Sharp Memorial , Radiation Oncology at University of California at San Diego) allows us to provide students with excellent research and clinical internship opportunities. This partnership also enables us to provide students with access to potential employers and/or links to employers.
We were successful in obtaining CAMPEP accreditation effective January 2010. We were till recently (August 2013) supported by two grants: (i) from the US Department of Education, Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education(FIPSE) to develop novel teaching strategies in Medical Physics, to integrate courses in Regulatory Affairs, as well as to increase the enrollment of Hispanic minority students and (ii) a grant from National Science Foundation (NSF) to support students in a Science Masters specialization. These grants helped us to firmly establish and obtain CAMPEP accreditation for the Medical Physics program. We continue to seek funding to support the program and the students.
Our vision is to establish the program as the premier Master’s degree program in Medical Physics in Southern California. A strong emphasis will be placed on training students to workforce needs as well as in sustaining a dynamic program that adapts to the changing needs of the workforce.