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Professional Doctorate

Professional Doctorate in Medical Physics: Unparalleled Training for Clinical Leadership

If you’re looking for excellent training for a clinical career in diagnostic imaging physics, Vanderbilt is the place for you.

Our Doctorate in Medical Physics (DMP) became the first accredited program in the United States, and we’ve stayed on the cutting edge of medical physics ever since.

In our DMP program, you’ll dive into:

  • Two years of rigorous, interactive coursework (Y1-2)
  • 200+ hours of practical hours in clinic (Y1-2)
  • Monthly rotations through diverse clinical settings (Y3-4)
  • Preparation for success on the 3-part ABR board certification exam (Y4)
  • Networking and faculty mentorship to support you through all four years

Want to see what your path through the DMP could look like? Learn about our curriculum and community in the first two years.

The DMP Community – Meet your new family

With a small group of dedicated trainees and an entire cast of expert faculty, the DMP program at Vanderbilt is a community like no other.

  • Thrive in our small-group learning environments. Because of our small program size, most of your classes will include 2 to 5 students, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity for one-on-one instruction and direct feedback.
  • Collaborate with students and faculty from both therapy and imaging tracks to gain the big picture of medical physics.
  • Train under the interdisciplinary expertise of our experienced faculty, who are passionate about classroom and clinical learning.

Our alumni have countless stories of faculty members who made them feel like family, older students who helped them troubleshoot problems in clinic, and clinicians who valued their opinion from Day 1.

Your Path through the DMP: Years 1-2

In the Vanderbilt DMP, you’ll start off with two years of graduate coursework and practical experiences in clinic.

Coursework: Laying the Foundations
These two years of coursework are all about laying the theoretical groundwork for your future clinical practice.

  • Learn the physics behind the technologies and diagnoses practiced every day in diagnostic imaging
  • Build your interprofessional communication skills as you prepare for presentations, oral exams, and discussion-centered seminars
  • Grow interprofessional relationships in your classes with MSMP therapy and imaging classmates
  • Take purposeful time to reflect with built-in opportunities for feedback from peers and faculty
  • In spring of Year 2, take your oral qualifying exam, a longstanding academic tradition to demonstrate your mastery of the subject matter so far.

At the end of these two years, you’ll have the earned the equivalent of a Master of Science Degree in Medical Physics (MSMP in passing) as you move on to years 3 and 4.

Though lectures from expert faculty certainly build your knowledge base, student participation and collaborative teaching opportunities are at the heart of our curriculum.

Practicum: Hands-on in Clinic
Though your first two years in the DMP focus on coursework, you’ll also jump into clinical experience to put this learning into practice.

Over your 200+ hours in clinic, your responsibilities will slowly build up so that, by the end of Year 2, you’ll be equipped to perform residency-level tasks in diagnostic imaging.

  • Work with and test the wide variety of state-of-the-art imaging equipment housed at VUMC
  • Interact with our advanced modalities — from MRI to mammography machines — at VUMC’s main location and our satellite locations around Nashville and the Middle Tennessee area
  • Learn to calibrate and troubleshoot a variety of diagnostic imaging technologies
  • See firsthand what day-to-day life looks like as a medical physics resident

Throughout your practicum hours, our expert faculty will be providing guidance, direct feedback, and support each step of the way.

Your Path through the DMP: Years 3-4

After completing your two years of coursework, you’re ready to dive into two years of diagnostic imaging residency at Vanderbilt’s medical center.

Clinical Rotations: Building towards clinical competency
Your third year marks the transition from didactic learning to supervised clinical responsibility. The skills you practiced in your clinical practicum during Years 1 and 2 will come into play on an everyday basis as you:

Rotate to new clinical settings each month

These rotations introduce you to the wide range of diagnostic imaging work. You’ll typically spend a few hours each day on rotation, with outside time set aside for completing clinic-related tasks and meeting with faculty advisers.

Your rotations will include months in:

  • Radiography
  • Pediatric imaging
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI
  • Nuclear medicine

Learn from the guidance of expert clinicians at VUMC

  • Year 3: Collaborate closely with the technologists in your clinical rotations, including x-ray technologists, nuclear medicine technologists, and sonographers.
  • Year 4: Partner with the radiologists in your clinical rotations to see how images are used to diagnose disease and inform patient care.

Explore specialty medical physics care at our satellite locations throughout Nashville and the Middle Tennessee area. As you rotate through these satellite locations, you’ll get a taste for different clinical dynamics and team strategies.

Continue theoretical exploration by taking an optional elective class each year. Join departmental meetings to learn how medical physics faculty manage a balance of clinical, research, and teaching work. You’ll work closely with both technologists and radiologists in your future clinical practice, so Years 3 and 4 are the perfect time to build your strengths as an interprofessional team member and clinician.

Meet Kenji

Kenji Nanto

Kenji Nanto is a third-year student in the Doctor of Medical Physics program passionate about medical imaging through hands-on training.

“Having literal hands-on experience is what I feel I’m most getting out of this degree by coming to Vanderbilt,” Nanto said. “I’m not sure if all schools do it, but Vanderbilt does, and I get four solid years with individualized attention makes it seem less like school and more like career training.”

Nanto shadows and observes radiation technologists in all departments that use diagnostic imaging technologies like x-ray, CT, MRI, and other modalities.

“These opportunities have given me many instances to really get a feeling of how I, as a physicist, can bring value to them, to the radiologists and most importantly the patients,” he said. “Really keeping an eye on the big picture of my (future) job.”

Read more about Kenji and his training at VUSM.

Research: Explore the Cutting Edge of Medical Physics

In your future practice, other professionals in your clinic space will look to you as an expert in imaging technology and techniques— and that’s why research experience during your DMP is so crucial.

In your path through the DMP, you’ll complete 6 credit hours of research, leading to a research manuscript and public presentation to faculty and other students.

Your research work will also provide opportunities to travel to regional and national conferences to present your work as well as build networks across institutions.

During your research months, you will:

  • Develop a close working relationship with an expert faculty member as your research adviser
  • Delve into the diverse areas covered by medical physics research
  • Stay on the cutting edge of the field by further exploring the newest tools and techniques
  • Network with researchers from other disciplines whose research touches on your work
  • Craft an academic article that describes the work you’ve done, ready to submit for publication
  • Create an oral presentation summarizing your research

Your research experience here will train you in innovative thinking and academic scholarship, equipping you for leadership in the field.

What’s Next?

After completing a DMP in diagnostic imaging, you’ll be equipped to:

Complete the 3-part ABR board certification exam:

  • Part 1: a computer-based exam generally taken immediately after completing your two years of coursework
  • Part 2: a computer-based exam focusing on specialty-specific knowledge in diagnostic imaging, generally taken immediately after the end of your fourth year
  • Part 3: an oral exam covering the same knowledge base as Part 2, generally taken one year after passing Part 2.

Step into a full-time medical physicist position, equipped to move forward as both a competent leader and a curious life-long learner.