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Medical Physicist resident from Australia

  1. Apr 10, 2013 #1
    Medical Physicist "resident" from Australia

    Hi everybody,

    I'm looking for advice with regards to moving to North America, particularly Canada, and becoming a medical physicist. I am Canadian, born and raised. I earned my B.Sc. in Canada (McMaster's non-CAMPEP radiation physics program), but earned an M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Australia in medical physics. Obviously, neither my M.Sc. or Ph.D. were earned from CAMPEP approved programs.

    In Australia, the clinical residency (or "registrar" in Australian-ese) program is around 4-5 years. This sounds like a long time, but I'm always surprised when I hear that the Canadian and American program for radiation oncology physicists is only 2 years! I've been a resident for ~4 years, and am ~12 months from completing my residency.

    I was hoping to move back home to Canada, and may return before I finish my clinical training in Australia. After all, if the Aussie qualification is non-transferrable between countries, there's little benefit of being qualified in Australia. :grumpy: My contract ends soon anyway, which is my way out.

    My primary concern with my "Canada plan" is my education. I'm afraid of being asked to repeat my M.Sc. or/and Ph.D. because my program isn't CAMPEP approved. Personally, I think it would be silly to immediately exclude or discredit a degree earned outside of North America, or that it means that you cannot fulfil the role of a medical physicist. I strongly believe that the education I received in Australia was excellent, and that my 4 years of clinical experience would make me an immediate asset and contributor to any clinic that requires a physicist. Unfortunately, I don't know how my education and work experience will be "viewed", or valued, by Canadian or US centres.

    Can anybody give me their opinion on this, or perhaps some personal insight if you're a clinical physicist? I have looked at the COMP, CCPM, and AAPM websites, but it's not the same as hearing it from a real person. ;) I would hate to discover that due to my curious and adventurous side, I'm going to be professionally and personally handcuffed, barred from working in my country. :(

    Last edited: Apr 10, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 10, 2013 #2


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    I'm not sure how well it's been publicized, but my understanding is that the CCPM is following suit with the ABR accreditation requirements in 2016, so technically if that's the certification you're after, you should be able to write it. As you've been trained in Australia, you would need to either (a) have Canadian citizenship, or (b) have a medical physics job/residency position in Canada.

    I don't know what their plan is for treating such situations after 2016 though. I know a number of foreign-trained physicists who are very good at what they do and it would be a shame not to have an avenue for others like them to come into Canada.
  4. Apr 10, 2013 #3

    Thanks for the reply. I'm really unsure about what I've read and heard about this.

    On the one hand, I have read that beyond 2014, I'm out of luck in the US, and by 2016, I've run out of time in Canada, hence my urge to move back to Canada ASAP.

    On the other hand, some people are saying that I could still sit the exams despite not being from a CAMPEP approved M.Sc. program. Would this still apply beyond 2016, or only before 2016? I don't see how this makes sense in any case, because what's to stop someone from going to a non-CAMPEP approved university and simply writing the exam anyway? CAMPEP was meant to prevent this very issue.

    I've also read that as long as your program fulfils the topics covered in the AAPM Report 197 ("The Essential Medical Physics Didactic Elements for Physicists Entering the Profession through an Alternative Pathway: A Recommendation from the AAPM Working Group on the Revision of Reports 44 & 79"), you're fine. However, that document uses the term "alternative pathways" to refer to people who may have graduated from a pure physics or biomedical engineering masters program that wish to enter medical physics.

    Australia's work situation, work-life balance, and overall salaries is far better than in Canada, as far as I'm aware. However, it would be heartbreaking if I didn't even have the option to return to Canada as a physicist. I'm still a Canuck.

  5. Apr 11, 2013 #4


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    If you're really concerned you could try contacting the CCPM.

    As far as I understand it, in 2016 the CCPM is going to require either a CAMPEP graduate program or a CAMPEP residency as a condition for membership. I don't know if they are planning for some kind of loophole around it, such as an "exceptional circumstances" clause... but I wouldn't count on it.

    The other thing is that depending on where you want to work membership with the CCPM may not be a requirement. In Ontario for example, it's my understanding that you complete a "peer review" process at the completion of a residency - which is very much like the CCPM membership oral exam, but that has become the defining credential for employment in that province. I don't know why they don't just go along with requiring CCPM membership, as looking at it from the outside, it seems like a duplication of effort in my opinion.

    In a worse case scenario there are "post PhD" programs that you can take that allow you to just do the CAMPEP coursework which will qualify you for the ABR or CCPM membership. In general they are set up for people with PhDs in other fields of physics who want to get into medical physics to provide an "alternative entry" process.

    In general, it's best to read the fine print on these things rather than listen to people who say "you'll be fine if..."
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