Program Evolution and History
The Department of Physics at East Carolina established the Master's degree with focus in Medical Physics in 1989 to complement the ongoing Master's level graduate program in applied physics initiated in 1970.The need for highly qualified medical physicists was well recognized at that time and the administration was in support of expanding the curriculum to meet the needs of the community.The Medical Physics program was initiated with the full partnership of the Department of Radiation Oncology of the East Carolina University School of Medicine.It was recognized that to be successful the program must have a strong clinical component and the Department of Radiation Oncology was firmly committed to that end. Several faculty from the Department of Radiation Oncology maintain joint appointments, others maintain adjunct appointments with the Department of Physics.
The first graduate of the Medical Physics Master's degree, Ms. Pamela White, completed her degree in 1991. From the inception, the program has been very productive. Soon after its inception, action was taken to limit the enrollment to four new students per year. This decision was implemented to maintain a sufficiently small enrollment to assure that adequate hands-on clinical training could be attained. It was felt that quality education was more important than quantity of students and that clinical hands-on experience was the defining factor in graduating qualified medical physicists.It has only been in recent years, based on increased staffing at the Department of Radiation Oncology, that the limit on the number of new students accepted has been increased. Also, with the accreditation of the program in January 2006 a high number of quality students applied to the program. The last three years enrollment was stable around 15 students, accepting 6 to 8 new MS-MP students each year.
This increase in enrollment, with its increased commitment for clinical training, exemplifies the University's commitment to a strong and sustained Medical Physics Program. From the first graduate, Ms. White, who was appointed as an assistant professor at the Medical College of Virginia, students have accepted numerous positions ranging from staff positions at M.D. Anderson, Harvard University, and Duke University, to becoming medical Physicists at regional hospitals in more than 10 states and two foreign countries. Several of our graduates now are in positions of chief physicist at local and regional hospitals.
The PhD program in biomedical physics is now established and hosts around 20 doctoral students. It is planned to accept 4 to 5 new doctoral students each year. Our Master's students have the benefit of an expanding research base and the ability to continue their education within East Carolina University should they desire. Within the last years some of our doctoral students pursued in parallel to their doctoral studies the Master's in Medical Physics and performed their doctoral research in Medical Physics and Radiation Biology. The PhD program also offers a new concentration to allow highly qualified students to earn both, the accredited MS in Physics, Medical Physics concentration together with the PhD in Biomedical Physics.