High motivation and dedication of medical physicists during current crises in Oman




Medical physicists at Sultan Qaboos University and Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Department of Radiology and Molecular Imaging, have proven to manage their responsibilities and play their essential roles in the field where the whole world is experiencing a new challenge, which is the pandemic COVID‑19. When they were forced out of their comfort zones, they challenged themselves to continue serve their students, patients, and community. They believed, with each challenge there are many opportunities to grow, develop and change for the better.
 
An example of opportunities was to reflect on their routine practice. This is when they invested their time during this period in developing and reviewing their policies, guidelines and standards that are related to radiation safety and quality assurance activities including radiation safety local rules, transport of radioactive material, waste management, radiation survey and monitoring, decontamination procedures, managing unsealed radioactive material and quality control tests of imaging modalities, radiopharmaceuticals and lead aprons.
 
To cope with the lockdowns and limitations, our medical physicists immediately switched to fully online teaching including videoing practical sessions, regular assessments, final exams, and final year projects which were and will continue to be delivered to the medical physics students (at BSc. Level) and to the medical students. In addition, imaging physics lectures for R1 radiology residents will continue via virtual platforms for the year 2020-2021.
 
The in-house personal dosimetry (TLD) laboratory continued offering the service to over 1000 radiation workers where practice had to be adjusted to cater for the safety of our staff and other radiation workers against COVID‑19. In regards to the quality assurance program of our diagnostic imaging modalities (including X-ray units, fluoroscopy, CT, mammography, PET/CT and SPECT/CT) acceptance tests, post maintenance and scheduled routine quality control tests were and continue to be performed taken into account wearing full PPE especially for modalities which are used by COVID‑19 patients.
 
Radiation safety was never compromised. Since the pandemic began, our medical physicists are always available in the hospital to maintain radiation protection of staff and patients as well as radioactive waste management. The Medical Physicists as well continued estimating fetus dose of pregnant patients undergoing radiological examinations and reported them as usual.
 
Moreover, during this period, our Medical Physicists contributed in the requirements of a radiation dose monitoring software that is currently being installed in the Department of Radiology and Molecular Imaging. As well as, contributing in a number of risk management and hospital health and safety committee meetings, where radiation safety risks and other related issues are being tackled.
 
In terms of research, a research proposal was submitted on developing a new method to identify COVID-19 patterns using artificial intelligence (Al) and radiomics techniques. The proposal was awarded a grant from the Oman Research Council. Research work on imaging related projects (cardiac quantitative studies) and optimization of image reconstruction techniques continued. However, the pandemic have had a significant impact on recruiting patients into these studies. Research results (abstracts/posters) were delivered as well in virtual conference platforms. Moreover, a research study on “The impact of distance learning on the performance of final year students at the Sultan Qaboos University” was conducted at the end of last spring semester 2020; and was widely published in Omani newspapers.
 
For self-development, the Medical Physicists have attended and continue to attend several IAEA, ICTP, etc. webinars on medical physics and radiation safety related topics.
 
The dedication and hard work of the Medical Physics team during the current situation are highly appreciated. The thanks and best wishes are extended to all Medical Physicists in the Middle East and all around.
 

Ibtesam Nasser Al-Maskari,
Superintendent, Chief Medical Physicist,
MPU, Radiology and Molecular Imaging
Sultan Qaboos University, Oman.


October 4th 2020
mefomp reporter

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