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Job Skills Medical physics: additional training

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I've been working as a medical physics expert (still not really an expert, I have the EU to thank for the name) for more than a year now and I have just finished all the relevant academic training and internships. However, I like to learn new things, be it in the hospital or the university. So I am trying my bit of research, but I am also looking for new opportunities to learn relevant material: skills or knowledge. I have been thinking all year about starting medicine, once I had my degree in medical physics. I know of exactly one person who went for a master in physics, phd in medical physics, master in medicine and phd in medicine. He is now of course working as a nuclear medicine doctor (who wouldn't considering the pay gap).

My main interest is the physics. I enjoy it, I think I'm good at it and I see lots of opportunities in the hospital where I'm employed. I find however, that the puzzle of matching the symptoms and the image to be fascinating as well. I also think it might benefit future research possibilities. My main focus would still be the medical physics. I am already 30 years old and maybe at some point I should say "enough is enough", rather than going on an adventure that at best would require 6 years of studying (and possibly 5 years residency), while having a full-time job and a family. I have spent the past 2 years having a full-time job and studying for my masters, so I know what I can expect.

TL;DR: I am an MPE. Do any of the more experienced MPEs here see the benefit of an additional degree in medicine? I believe my strengths better fit with physics than medicine.
 

Choppy

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If I understand, you're a qualified medical physicist with a master's degree (I'm translating in the North American terminology) and you're wondering about either (i) pursuing medicine (MD) or (ii) pursuing a PhD in medical physics.

There are pros and cons either way, some of which are fairly obvious.

Medicine tends to be a different animal. There is a lot more direct patient interaction and some people really like this, but it's not for everyone. If you're currently working as a medical physicist, you might want to see if you can shadow some of your physician colleagues and really get a sense of what they do and if you're cut out for it. It would be a real challenge to find out after all that time in medical school you really don't like working with sick people. Other things to consider include the fact that sometimes it can be a real challenge to get involved in research, if that's what you really want to do. Lots of physicians participate in smaller clinal research projects and clinical trials, but often they're so tied up in patient care it's a challenge to find time to dedicate toward bigger projects.

As for the pursuit of a PhD, I think there are a number of medical physicists who fall into this situation where they have a master's degree and would like to do more academic work--leading major research projects, teaching, etc.--but find it can be difficult to do without the PhD. One thing I might suggest on this front is to really look around for not just a PhD, but a project and supervisor you're really excited about spending the next few years of your life on. If you find that, then this might be the path for you. From a financial point of view, it may not be necessarily worth it, assuming you're currently working as a medical physicist. Taking a few years off to earn the PhD likely won't earn you too much more in salary though (again - North American perspective).
 
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Thanks for the fast reply!

The position I'm in is a bit more special.
I graduated as a master in nuclear physics,
I went to work in nuclear engineering for 5 years,
I didn't really like it that much, wanted to switch to medical physics which I already have a taste of at university,
I combined both the job in nuclear engineering and the first months of my medical physics degree
I switched to my current job as medical physicist (nuclear medicine) in combination with the last 1.5 years of my masters in medical physics.

I am working at a university hospital, but the university does not have a medical physics program. As a result, all research my department does is clinically oriented and all technical research is oriented on small animal imaging, as the university does have pre-clinical studies on new tracers etc. I have already spoken with the department head during the hiring process about a PhD, which I believe has to be an ambition if you want to work in a university hospital environment. We share a similar ambition and optimistic point of view for the future of our department. However, I cannot change towards a full PhD with scholarship for many reasons like I wouldn't be allowed to combine it with working as an MPE and it would hurt me financially as well. The research I would do towards a PhD would have to be closely related to my work and the plans of the department, implementing new tracers, new therapies, new methods, etc. I already have some ideas that we're working on and I'm writing my first article (a review, not necessarily related to the planned research), so that is not my real issue.

My main question is: do you as an experienced medical physicist see a benefit in your work for having a medical degree? I could "just" go for a medicine degree, I'm pretty sure I would be able to start (it's a bit of a weird system in Belgium), but I'm past the age of just starting that endeavor out of curiosity as it would significantly impact my life.
 

Choppy

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do you as an experienced medical physicist see a benefit in your work for having a medical degree?
Well, I suppose it could help. But I doubt it would be worth the cost unless you were planning on going on to actually practice medicine in some capacity. And if you are, the medical physics side of things would likely become secondary to that.
 
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Is there any other training you would recommend? I don't know what your field is exactly.
 

berkeman

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I don't know what your field is exactly.
You can learn more about a user by looking at their Profile Page. Click on their username (and sometimes you have to click on their username again), and in their Profile Page, click About. Many users have filled out at least some of their information in their About page. Here is that info from the Profile, About page for @Choppy
Location: Canada
Completed Educational Background: PhD
Degree in: Medical Physics, MCCPM
Gender: Male
Occupation: medical physicist
 

Choppy

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Is there any other training you would recommend? I don't know what your field is exactly.
This depends on your specific goals really. If you want to eventually be leading research, a PhD is probably what you're looking for, though I understand that it can be tough to leave a good full time job to do that.

It might help to think more about specifics. For example if you're interested in machine learning applications for computer-aided diagnosis, you may just want to boost your programming skills. Take some courses in that direction, and/or attend a machine learning conference/workshop/bootcamp. Reach out to groups that are doing work in that area and figure out they're interested in collaboration.

For what it's worth, I'm in radiation oncology physics.
 

gleem

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I agree with Choppy that a medical degree is not a route that would be that useful unless you wanted to practice medicine. The general medical program includes courses and activities that are not of value for medical physics research. Is the medical school you are thinking of at the university in which you are currently working? If so how do you justify the time and cost compared to working on a PhD in MP at another university. Your current work experience should be of value in getting into a MP program somewhere else and you might be able to work while you learn.
 

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