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MCPHS faculty member David Gilmore

MCPHS Faculty Hones Cutting-Edge Curriculum for Nuclear Medicine Technology

  • In 2019 MCPHS faculty member David Gilmore, EdD, CNMT, NCT, RT(R)(N), FSNMMI-TS, initiated a push to change the University’s Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Medicine Technology (NMT) curriculum. By fall of 2020, he not only activated the modified curriculum, but he also helped the University introduce a new, advanced certificate program for NMT students with a prior bachelor’s degree or a degree in another medical imaging field. But Dr. Gilmore’s revisions are not restricted to MCPHS alone. As co-Chair of the Society of Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) technologist curriculum task force, he is also driving the efforts to restructure the nationwide curriculum of nuclear medicine technology, which has a launch date set for June 2022.

    Under Dr. Gilmore’s direction, MCPHS’s competency-based NMT curriculum is now more heavily focused on foundational sciences, with a requirement of two full years of prerequisites, such as more biology-related courses and one year of professional studies. Dr. Gilmore says that comprehension of the basic sciences is essential for understanding the body’s chemical and biological processes examined by nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. Furthermore, a thorough study of advanced sciences prepares students to think critically through the disease state. Dr. Gilmore explains that a biology focus is “what personalized medicine is all about,” because different bodies respond to treatments in their own ways, and some patients want or require alternative treatment options.

    Another recent advancement for NMT students at MCPHS is the automatic eligibility for the post-primary examination in computed tomography (CT). According to Dr. Gilmore, about 60% of nuclear medicine technology involves CT scans. Thanks to Dr. Gilmore’s input, CT certification is now within MCPHS’s NMT curriculum. After graduation, students only need to obtain extra clinical hours for other specializations, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and cardiology. This is a huge advantage for MCPHS students as the national curriculum does not yet require CT certification, though Dr. Gilmore says it is headed in that direction.

    One of the reasons for the shifting nature of the nuclear medicine technology curriculum is the unique ground of diagnostics and therapeutics on which NMT falls. In addition to being used to detect various diseases or tumors, nuclear medicine technology is also used to analyze whether a treatment has been effective. This is an extremely beneficial tool to determine whether other treatments, such as radiation therapy, are worth continuing in immunosuppressed patients. NMT procedures such as positron emission tomography (PET) help physicians visualize the biochemical processes of a patient with just a small amount of radioactive substance as a tracer. PET enables physicians to see more than is made visible by other modalities because it notes the metabolism of tissues and organs rather than focuses on the tracer collected in those areas. Its capability to provide a clearer and more targeted picture of the body’s response to certain diseases or drugs is just one example of how nuclear medicine technology is a key component to the future of medicine. In addition to the diagnostic imaging abilities, nuclear medicine is also used for therapeutics to treat a variety of cancers such as thyroid cancer.

    With Dr. Gilmore’s curriculum improvements already in effect at MCPHS, the University is well ahead of many of the other programs in the country. This past year, MCPHS accepted triple the number of students to the NMT program as compared to recent years. Dr. Gilmore thinks that MCPHS has one of the most cutting-edge curriculums in part because the University is not resistant to change. Since nuclear medicine technology changes fast, Dr. Gilmore says that we must be proactive in the profession. He notes, “In the niche market of personalized medicine, forward thinking is necessary.” Another way in which MCPHS has proven progressive in its approach to health education is its acceptance of remote learning. Dr. Gilmore says that the University is thinking ahead to the future with its option of online NMT degrees, and that as a result, nuclear medicine technology at MCPHS has become a regional program, now including sites outside of Massachusetts such as Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Connecticut.

    Dr. Gilmore is an influential leader with connections across the country. For example, his co-Chair of the SNMMI curriculum task force, Crystal Botkin, works at St. Louis University, which has a progressive NMT program. Dr. Gilmore says that coordinating with colleagues at various, large institutions allows him to be more efficient in reshaping the program. The longevity he has in his field has also helped him to optimize the curriculum of nuclear medicine technology. In 2007-2008, he served as President of the SNMMI, technologist section and today remains an international liaison. Soon after, he became an author of a textbook, which is still used in most of the country’s NMT programs. In addition to rewriting the curriculum, Dr. Gilmore is currently in the process of completing the next edition of that textbook with outside colleague, Kristen Waterstram-Rich, Interim Associate Dean, Institute of Health Sciences & Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology.

    Although the new nationwide curriculum will not be officially changed until 2022, the first set of MCPHS students to have experienced the new curriculum graduates this August. MCPHS offers two Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Medicine Technology tracks, one accelerated and one fast track. In addition to its laboratory and license to instruct students in the use of radioisotopes, MCPHS has partnerships with premier medical institutions throughout New England, including the Longwood Medical Area, which offer great opportunities for internships and careers.