The nuclear medical school curriculum is about as bad as it gets.
The Nuclear Medicine Program is a program that was created in the 1970s to train medical students and medical residents in nuclear medicine, a science that involves handling and treating nuclear fallout, radiation, and radiation-related injuries.
But it was never really about making a medical school program; it was more about making medical students more nuclear-friendly, in hopes of bringing them into the medical profession.
According to Dr. Mark F. Ritchie, who teaches the program at Columbia University, the first step was to create a curriculum that could be taught in a day and be used in a medical residency.
“What we did with the nuclear medical students was to get them trained on what they were doing and how to use it,” he told me.
“They were not taught how to deal with radiation, they weren’t taught how nuclear medicine is practiced.
We got them trained to think about what a nuclear patient would need, how they would need to be protected, and how we would provide that protection.”
Ritchie explained that these students were taught how radiation affects the body and the nuclear medicine theory behind it, and that the students were also taught to deal well with people with radiation-induced illnesses, including cancer.
They were taught about radiation’s effects on the brain and nervous system and how it affects the immune system, and the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
This was just one part of the curriculum, which was designed by the National Nuclear Medicine Council, the body that represents nuclear medicine practitioners and researchers, as well as physicians.
“It was a very, very short curriculum,” Ritchie told me, “and it was designed to make them feel comfortable, not like they were going to be in a very large facility and be dealing with hundreds of people.”
He continued: “What I wanted was for them to have a sense of the medical and physical nature of the radiation they were dealing with, the risks that they were facing and how they were managing it.
That was the focus of the entire program.”
In order to make the curriculum more effective, the program had to be updated several times throughout the decades.
Richey said that this update came after he began noticing more and more patients who were dealing seriously with radiation poisoning.
And as more patients came in, the number of radiation-sick students grew, and Ritchie felt it was important to continue to teach these students about the dangers of radiation.
“I think we started to see a pattern of more and, more and again, more people coming in who were very ill, with very serious symptoms, and who were not being treated,” he said.
“In some ways, that was good for the program because it allowed us to keep educating them about the health risks and the consequences of radiation.”
In a recent survey of medical students by the American College of Radiology, nearly half of them (45%) reported that they had received some kind of injury from radiation.
The most common reason for injury was to the head, neck, or spine, with the next two leading the list being cardiac arrest and pulmonary embolism.
Other common injuries included skin burns and fractures.
In fact, over the past five years, the medical school has reported more than 50 cases of cancer among students.
This has been in stark contrast to the current state of affairs, as nuclear medicine remains largely unknown to the general public, with many people unaware that it is even possible to practice the profession.
“The fact that the nuclear community is so well-publicized and so popular and so well known, I think it’s a reflection of how much of a niche it is,” Richeys told me about the lack of exposure and awareness of nuclear medicine.
“When I started the program, I was told, ‘We have to train you in this, but you’ll never have a job in nuclear health care because we’re going to shut down your hospital,’ ” he continued.
“That’s not true.”
As of 2013, there are more than 30,000 graduate students enrolled in the program and more than half of those are women, according to the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Of course, it is hard to pinpoint exactly why this is the case.
There are a number of reasons, including the lack in visibility of the nuclear field, the fact that nuclear medicine was never designed to be a profession, and a lack of access to the training that is available to physicians.
And while there are a few programs that are open to nuclear physicians in the U.S., many of them are only open to those who have a nuclear medicine degree, according the College’s website.
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