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Historical Overview of Radiation Safety Office

    On May 19, 1957, Grayson L. Kirk, President of Columbia University, distributed a memo entitled "Directive to All University Departments Having a Source of Ionizing Radiation," advising all parties of the expanded function of the Radiation Safety Committee.

    A notice entitled "Radiation Safety Guide for Columbia University," dated February 10, 1959, named Philip M. Lorio as Health Physics Officer for University Departments and Laboratories other than the College of Physicians & Surgeons, where Dr. Edgar Watts was named Health Physics Officer. Dr. Gioacchino Failla chaired the Radiation Safety Committee and initiated the Radiological Research Laboratory in Columbia University’s Department of Radiology. By agreement between Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital in 1962, the Radiation Safety Office was established as an autonomous unit for the purpose of maintaining radiation safety. The Joint Radiation Safety Committee (JRSC), appointed by the Medical Board of the New York Presbyterian Hospital and the Vice President for Columbia University’s Health Sciences Division, was charged with the responsibility of defining and ensuring enforcement of proper safeguards in the use of sources of ionizing radiation.

    Dr. Harald H. Rossi, Director of the Radiological Research Laboratory, was appointed Chairman of the Joint Radiation Safety Committee. Under his direction this committee developed a "Radiation Safety Code & Guide," which is administered by the Radiation Safety Officer. In 1984 Dr. Eric J. Hall became the next Director of the Radiological Research Laboratory, subsequently renamed the Center for Radiological Research, and also followed as JRSC Chairman. In 2008, after Dr. Hall’s his retirement from these roles, Dr. David J. Brenner succeeded him as Director of the Center for Radiological Research and JRSC Chairman.

    The present Joint Radiation Safety Committee of Columbia University Medical Center, New York Presbyterian Hospital and New York State Psychiatric Institute came into existence through an agreement made on February 12, 1991 between the three institutions. The agreement combined several overlapping clinical and educational programs, including all programs for ensuring radiation safety.

    In January 2010, the operations of the CUMC Radiation Safety Office (RSO) and Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) were integrated to form one department responsible for providing comprehensive health and safety services to the University community. Under the leadership of Kathleen Crowley, RPA-C, M.PH, who has lead EH&S for 10 years and successfully merged the Morningside and CUMC EH&S department in 2005, the University community now has consistency in the application of University policies and governmental regulations and better coordination of our radiation safety programs and the delivery of services to investigators.  Thomas L. Morgan, Ph.D., CHP, was appointed Executive Director of Radiation Safety Programs and Chief Radiation Safety Officer January 4, 2011.

    The Radiation Safety Office reports to and advises the Joint Radiation Safety Committee, which meets on a quarterly basis. At the present time the Radiation Safety Officer reports on professional and technical matters to Dr. David Brenner, Chair of the JRSC, and on budgetary matters to Dr. Robert S. Kass, Vice Dean for Research, who represents Dr. Lee Goldman, Dean of Columbia University Medical Center. In addition, the Radiation Safety Office participates in the review of research protocols for the Radioactive Drug Research Committee (RDRC) under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

    Radiation Safety Office staff are Columbia University employees. The Radiation Safety Office is funded by a cost sharing arrangement between Columbia University, New York Presbyterian Hospital and New York State Psychiatric Institute.

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    Services Provided by Radiation Safety Office


    Collectively, Columbia University Medical Center, New York Presbyterian Hospital and New York State Psychiatric Institute form a large health sciences complex with extensive teaching, research, and clinical facilities. The basic goal of the Radiation Safety Office is to ensure implementation of all protective measures necessary to guarantee that doses from ionizing radiation to patients, visitors, students, faculty and staff on campus, as well as to the community at large, remain "as low as reasonably achievable" (ALARA). Major entities supported by Radiation Safety Office services include:

    • Columbia University Medical Center
    • New York Presbyterian/Columbia Center
    • New York State Psychiatric Institute
    • New York Presbyterian/Allen Pavilion
    • New York Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital (CHONY)
    • Kreitchman PET Center Radiopharmacy
    • CUMC Integrated Imaging Center
    • Dental facilities on the CUMC/NYPH/NYSPI campus and elsewhere

    The projected completion of several additional buildings, as well as the Columbia University Medical Center Integrated Imaging Center will add to the responsibilities of the Radiation Safety Office in the near future. For the purposes of this report, this collection of entities will hereafter be referred to as CUMC/NYPH/NYSPI.

    Reporting to the Joint Radiation Safety Committee of CUMC/NYPH/NYSPI, the Radiation Safety Officer and the staff of the Radiation Safety Office are responsible for obtaining and maintaining licenses authorizing the possession and use of radioactive materials and obtaining and maintaining registrations and permits for the operation of radiation producing equipment. In addition, the Radiation Safety Office is responsible for obtaining and maintaining permits necessary for the safe disposal or controlled release of research and medical wastes containing radioactivity.

    The Radiation Safety Office ensures that authorized users of radioactive materials and radiation producing equipment comply with all governmental regulatory requirements and guidelines by means of training, education, consultation, and by a program of internal audits, as well as the inspections of facilities. Regulatory agencies charged with overseeing the possession, use, or disposal of radioactive materials or radiation producing machines include:

    • United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
    • United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
    • United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
    • New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC)
    • New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH)
    • New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH), Office of Radiological Health.

    New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and United States Food and Drug Administration conduct periodic inspections and audits of CUMC/NYPH/NYSPI facilities operating under their licenses or permits. The Radiation Safety Office works continuously to prevent regulatory violations and swiftly implements any regulatory recommendations.

    The Radiation Safety Office also ensures compliance with institutional policies and procedures published in the "Radiation Code & Guide of Columbia University Medical Center, New York Presbyterian Hospital & New York State Psychiatric Institute."

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