HPS 66th Annual Meeting

Phoenix, Arizona
July 25th-29th 2021

Single Session

[Schedule Grid]

VTU-A - Special Session: Pandemic Experiences Part 1

   10:10 - 13:55

VTU-A.1   10:10  Challenges and Opportunities in Medical Radiation Safety in a time of Pandemic B Lemieux*, UK HealthCare ; Br Lemieux

Abstract: The Global Pandemic upended business as usual in the Healthcare industry, creating both challenges and opportunities for radiation safety programs. Staffing levels, patient volumes, and business models radically changed over a short time frame. In addition, new radiation sources were introduced in larger numbers within the Healthcare environment, such as Ultraviolet Radiation to be used for disinfection and sterilization, and established sources such as irradiators garnered renewed interest for applications in killing the virus. This presentation will review the business disruptions, new challenges, and compensatory measures explored.

VTU-A.2   10:25  Medical Health Physics during COVID Pandemic at a Cancer Center RP Harvey*, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Abstract: Many Radiation Protection and Medical Health Physics Professionals continued to practice and perform their occupational functions during the COVID-19 Pandemic. These individuals had their own unique experiences as they carried out their duties as Directors of Radiation Safety, Radiation Safety Officers, Laser Safety Officers and Medical Health Physics or all of the above. I assume that many of our experiences and solutions were similar but certainly believe that each of us were faced with different obstacles. Cancer Centers like Roswell Park Comprehensive Center and other Healthcare Facilities continued to fulfill their missions because patient medical needs are sustained, pandemic or not. Many elective surgeries and procedures were postponed resulting in volume reductions which made practice during the pandemic more tolerable. But there were new problems and challenges to overcome in staffing, conducting meetings/trainings, regulatory compliance, budgets, dosimetry, recruiting and various personal situations. At Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, surgeries were conducted and some of those cases required the use of lasers. Some of our lasers are outside or rental lasers which necessitated the need for laser safety and biomedical engineering inspections prior to laser use at out facility. Inpatient radiopharmaceutical therapies continued for inpatients needing treatment and clinical research protocols that could not be postponed due to patient care needs. Outpatient radiopharmaceutical therapies for NETs patients with lutathera, where we have outpatients in a bed, had to be performed. All these radiopharmaceutical therapies required room preparation and decontamination efforts. Medical health physicists were faced with different challenges and they found creative solutions to overcome those difficulties. The approaches and experiences we had at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center will be discussed in an effort to share information, challenges and solutions with others.

VTU-A.3   10:40  A Medical Health Physicist’s Experience During the COVID-19 Pandemic C Wang*, Duke University

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions in healthcare organizations. While Medical Health Physicists (MHPs) are not considered “front-line” in the fight against the disease itself, MHPs have their own share of battles in maintaining radiation safety support per usual and helping their organizations navigate through workflow changes. From the personal perspective of a MHP that worked at two different healthcare organizations during this period – with a job change in the early days of the pandemic – this presentation discusses the major challenges, successes and lessons along the unique professional journey.

VTU-A.4   10:55  Supporting Cancer Research, Treatment and Staff Amidst the Epicenter of COVID-19 pandemic in the United States Ba Chu*, Memorial Sloan Kettering ; Ba Chu

Abstract: The pandemic ravaged Queens and New York City became the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. The streets of the city were empty and quiet except for the blaring of ambulance sirens. Despite the unprecedented upheaval of COVID-19, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center continued to work steadfastly through the crisis. Medical Health Physics has 15 members that support the organization by providing guidance and oversight of radioactive materials and devices that produce radiation to facilitate ongoing compliance with applicable institutional and regulatory requirements for the safe and effective application of radiation in patient care, research, and education. Cancer research and some elective procedures did pause for a brief period when the city was mandated to shut down. Many of our patients canceled non-emergent treatments and there were several treatments and operations postponed. Overall, care and treatment continued as well as the need for staff to support. We developed methods to rotate staff to cover clinic, have contingency plans if staff became sick, moved training from face-to-face to virtual platforms, found ways to stay connected and communicate with each other while navigating our own personal struggles from COVID contact exposure: spouses that also work in healthcare, child-care, school, personnel changes, commute, distance separations, and isolation. Some members in the group did get sick and fully recovered. In this new working environment, staff also had the ability to be involved in special projects outside of their scope of practice, collaborate on research projects and write manuscripts. Through the continued trials that we had to face, the team demonstrated such strength, dedication and support to continue to deliver patient care and medical health physics expertise to the facility and staff. Things may never be the same, but we were able to learn that the field of medical health physics is able to evolve, adapt, proceed forward and grow.

VTU-A.5   11:10  The program goes virtual. HPS Program Committee Adaptation to COVID-19 ZC Tribbett*, Yale University ; CA Wilson, University of Missouri; C Shaw, WCS

Abstract: The full weight of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and travel bans hit just weeks after the HPS program committee had finalized the 2020 annual meeting program. The HPS Board of Directors needed the Program Committee to step up to the challenge and build a virtual meeting. This presentation discusses the lessons learned during this experience, specifically how the program organization happened, what we were able to learn from other societies, and where we crossed uncharted territory for the Health Physics Society. Despite the unexpected, the society hit new records for several of the session's attendance and the society as a whole exceeded expectations for presentations. The move to a virtual meeting, while not the preferred long term format for most society members, did test a lot of new technologies and presentation styles that will be utilized at future in-person meetings. These COVID catalyzed changes are expected to have long-term improvements in the operation of our committee and new benefits for our society moving forward.

11:55  BREAK

VTU-A.6   12:25  Subject Matter Experts: a Critical Need in a Catastrophic Emergency WE Irwin*, Vermont Department of Health

Abstract: For the COVID-19 response, most jurisdictions scrambled to obtain people with infectious disease expertise. They were scarce and needed everywhere. If the experts had incident command system experience so they could work effectively within an emergency management team, they were particularly desirable. This combination was even more rare. This presentation will describe the author's experiences dealing with COVID-19 and parallel them to experiences to be expected for a radiological or nuclear catastrophic emergency. His experiences helping manage resources, task assignments and communications in the Vermont State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) as a sort of biological operations support specialist provides exceptional reinforcement for the FEMA Radiological Operations Support Specialist (ROSS).

VTU-A.7   12:40  Pandemic lessons and silver linings from a D.C. Fed by way of West Michigan SD DeCair*, US Environmental Protection Agency

Abstract: I can’t even put words together to express my sadness at how many lives have been lost and livelihoods exhausted by Covid-19. Just as we were hearing the first news of the new virus and before it began to threaten our life routines, I was experiencing a career highlight: A technical tour of Japan’s difficult-to-return zone and the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant site in February with my Nuclear Energy Agency working group on improving preparedness for recovery from radiological incidents. When full time telework started in March, I was grateful to have my {dream} job that could be done fully remotely. Being at EPA headquarters means I have no required field work or specialized lab equipment to use, and I can reach my colleagues and customers remotely. I was even able to return to my home state of Michigan to work. The time saved not commuting enabled me to study more for Part 2 of the CHP exam, and deferring taking it in 2020 improves my chances of passing. Also, as radiation protection and related organizations learned to put on virtual conferences, we have been able to include far more staff in national and international events, which would have been prohibitively expensive to attend in person. Networking certainly isn’t the same without coffee breaks and sidebar discussions, but we’re doing what we can to maintain a sense of community. On a personal note, I found myself increasingly concerned this past year as I observed the disparities in health care and economic inequities that were exacerbated by the pandemic. I channeled this energy by becoming a more active advocate for racial justice and diversity, particularly in the STEM community. I am grateful to have found so many colleagues in HPS with similar goals, to introduce the field of health physics to a diverse younger generation.

VTU-A.8   12:55  Regulatory and Emergency Response Considerations During the COVID-19 Pandemic AE Leek*, Iowa Department of Public Health ; An Leek

Abstract: Protection of the public and workers is a critical function of health physics work. Radiation risks rarely occur in isolation from other workplace and societal risks, so health physicists are proficient in using established guidance and procedures to balance radiation safety and security in perspective with other issues. The COVID-19 pandemic has required health physicists from every sector to revisit these typical considerations of risk balance and establish new acceptable approaches to conduct critical safety functions under remote or otherwise adjusted conditions to offset the transmission and health risks presented by COVID-19. This discussion will review risk considerations and adjustments that were addressed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic from the state regulatory oversight and protective action recommendation perspectives. From a regulatory perspective, state programs were faced with internal restrictions imposed in response to COVID-19 balanced with the need to ensure appropriate oversight to ensure ongoing radiation protection. The Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors passed a resolution to support radiation control programs and provide risk based guidance to regulatory practices and requirements related to maintain radiation safety, protect staff, limit transmission of COVID-19, ensure sustainability of emergency response, and minimize disruption and burden on critical healthcare workers and services. Additionally, the states and Federal regulatory partners worked together to determine appropriate options for regulatory relief and maintain compatibility across the differing pandemic response guidance in each state. Relative to emergency response, the EPA PAG manual allows for these considerations in making protective action decisions, and when properly applied, the PAGs provide the necessary flexibility for decision makers to account for additional public health risks such as COVID-19. Several states used this flexibility to outline and socialize adjustments to existing radiation response plans to ensure both radiation and COVID-19 risks were assessed in protective action recommendations. Given that a COVID-19 vaccine may not be widely available for several more months, continued and deliberate evaluation of commensurate radiological emergency response actions and appropriate regulatory relief strategies throughout the phases of the pandemic is warranted in the interest of reducing overall risk and maximizing public health and safety.

VTU-A.9   13:40  Interesting times call for interesting questions EA Caffrey*, Radian Scientific, LLC

Abstract: The Health Physics Society (HPS) sponsors a public information and outreach feature called “Ask-The-Expert” or ATE. ATE originated in 1999, and has grown exponentially since then to become the HPS’s most successful public education endeavor, receiving over 1 million unique site visits annually. This presentation will cover some of the most interesting questions ATE received during the onset of the global pandemic in 2020. Questions came from all sectors of the population, including doctors, nurses, medical personnel, and first responders, and general members of the public. These questions ranged from UV sterilization techniques for personal protective equipment and ambulances, to personal spaces and homes, to whether or not coronavirus was caused by 5G technology. ATE received so many questions in these areas that a couple general statements were developed to try to stem the tide of new questions. Methods used by ATE experts to respond to the public will be covered and resources for more information provided.

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