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Physics Clinical Medical Physics in a Field Other than Radiotherapy

  1. Nov 25, 2009 #1

    I am currently considering doing my graduate work in the field of medical physics. Most of the programs I'm looking at have specialties in either radiotherapy or medical imaging. As I have a strong background in optics I would like to pursue if possible photomedicine or molecular imaging. If I find a program that would let me specialize in these fields would I be able to find work in a hospital as a clinical physicist that does not deal with radiation oncology directly?
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  3. Nov 25, 2009 #2


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    The vast majority of clinical medical physics work is related to radiation therapy and most of the accredited graduate programs that I'm aware of have a heavy concentration on topics related to radiation therapy.

    That being said, there is a lot of interesting work being doing in the fields of molecular imaging and optics these days. I know (or have known) a few graduate students and working medical physicists who have projects in these fields. The problem is that the routine clinical demand for such physicists isn't as strong as it is in radiation therapy. There are clinical positions in nuclear medicine departments and MRI-support physicists, but just not as many as the more "conventional" radiotherapy positions.
  4. Nov 26, 2009 #3
    Thanks for the response! One more question. If that is the case, then would it be possible to do clinical work in radiation therapy while doing a research project in imaging or optics on the side? I read that many medical physicists aren't tied down to one job, but am now wondering if research and clinical work should be related directly or if there is room to breathe a little.
  5. Nov 26, 2009 #4


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    The research the medical physicsts do can vary considerably. Naturally, a lot of the research is directly related to their clinical work, and it's not difficult to see why this is. To branch out into a "non-clinical" area usually requires significant outside funding and equipment, whereas for projects directly related to radiation therapy you already have much of the equipment you need at your disposal, provided you are willing to stay late on a few nights.

    There is however no rule that dictates "thall shalt perform research in field X." My experience is that as long as I get my clinical duties done, I'm basically free to pursue whatever research projects capture my interest, so long as I'm being reasonably productive.
  6. Dec 8, 2009 #5
    The CAMPEP accredited Biomedical Physics program at UCLA has a great molecular imaging track. They have an entire institute (Crump institute) dedicated to molecular imaging, and all the powerhouses (and inventor) of PET still are around.
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