Guest post from NWAAPM member, Jessica Fagerstrom:
Medical Physics outreach efforts not only promote interest in the field, but also engage a whole new generation of scientists by providing them access to valuable learning and practical experiences. The “Portal to the Public” project through the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services aims to promote public engagement with current science by fostering dialogue between local scientists and their communities. As part of this outreach initiative, I feel very fortunate to have received a generous grant through the Northwest Chapter of the AAPM to undergo training as a member of the most recent cohort of Science Communication Fellows at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington.
The “Portal to the Public” project is led by the Pacific Science Center and involves a network of over sixty institutions, including universities, natural history museums, libraries, zoos, aquariums, and research groups. Science Communication Fellows at the Pacific Science Center undergo an eight week class designed to build skills in communicating their area of expertise specifically to a non-scientific audience. As a fellow, I developed a hands-on educational activity about medical physics and radiation therapy with the guidance of Pacific Science Center staff. The activity is now a regular part of the Science Center’s “Meet a Scientist” program, and primarily attracts young visitors to the Science Center, as well as their parents, as an introduction to therapeutic medical physics.
The stated mission of the AAPM is “advancing medicine through excellence in the science, education, and professional practice of medical physics.” Education, including education within our broader communities, is an important part of this mission (consider, for example, the excellent work of the Women’s Professional and the Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittees on the “Med Phyz Whiz Kidz” outreach program). The financial support of the Northwest AAPM chapter highlights the organization’s commitment to community outreach and engagement, and to the promotion of professional medical physics to a broad, community-based audience. By participating in events involving aspiring young scientists, this program will alert a new generation about opportunities in our field. The stated purposes of the Northwest Chapter are:
- To promote the application of physics to medicine and biology.
- To encourage interest and training in medical physics and related fields.
- To prepare and disseminate technical information in medical physics and related fields.
I am honored to be able to support these goals by becoming a medical physicist Science Communication Fellow at the Pacific Science Center. The experience has been incredibly rewarding, and I encourage other AAPM members to explore similar opportunities in their communities.