UW-L’s unique online program growing: medical dosimetry to be offered as a master’s degree

UW-L hopes to expand its unique online medical dosimetry program to offer a master’s degree.

UW-L hopes to expand its unique online medical dosimetry program to offer a master’s degree.

UW-L hopes to expand its unique online medical dosimetry program to offer a master’s degree.

The UW System Board of Regents will vote on approving a master of science in medical dosimetry at UW-L during its Dec. 11 meeting at UW-Madison. Campus faculty and administrators have already approved the degree, which will fund itself through enrollment.

Medical dosimetry involves measuring and calculating doses in cancer treatment. Dosimetrists use their expertise in physics, anatomy and radiobiology to develop an optimal arrangement of radiation portals to spare normal and radiosensitive tissues while applying a prescribed dose to the targeted disease.

Currently, UW-L offers the only online distance education medical dosimetry program in the nation. The 12-month certificate program includes clinical internships and online didactic coursework at a graduate level. If approved by the Regents, the degree program will join the certificate program offering online.

The UW-L program was designed in 2003 as a post-professional certificate with an intention to transition into a master’s degree, says Nishele Lenards, Medical Dosimetry Program Director. “At the time of program development, there were many certificate programs in the nation,” explains Lenards. “The university wanted to see how successful the program was before developing the graduate degree program.”

Benefits of the degree, says Lenards, include providing advanced-level coursework to prepare for the national board exam and professional development for career progression. Those completing a master’s or certificate can move into administration, management, medical dosimetry supervising, education, research, and junior physicist positions.

UW-L’s first class was accepted in fall 2004. Since then, annual class sizes has averaged between 10 and 30. Through summer 2009, the program had 77 graduates. Lenards expects the new master’s offering to attract a large number of medical dosimetrists from around the country because it’s online.

With the number cancer centers growing nationally, demand for medical dosimetrists remains high, say Lenards. “We have been able to meet the workforce needs in the Midwest, but a national shortage remains,” she notes.

For more information about the program, the profession and the unique possibilities associated with it see Medical Dosimetry Program.