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Medical physics in Canada

  1. Dec 22, 2013 #1
    Hey everyone, I'm a really confused undergrad willing to do anything it become a medical physicist in Canada.. But there are many questions I have in my head and I'm really hoping to get them answered!! Thanks a lot in advance

    I'm currently a Radiation Therapy undergrad student. I understand most CAMPEP accredited universities require either a physics undergrad or a strong background in physics, that's why I am going to take some (most likely 3 or 4) very strong 3rd and 4th year physics courses, after I graduate from my undergrad, to build a sufficient physics background. Also, fortunately my undergrad requires a thesis project to be done in fourth year and I'm hoping to do my thesis with a medical physicist on a physics based project.

    So after all this, I think I would have a sufficient background in physics and research experience... However I'm not the best on grades. I've always been an average student regardless of how much work I put in. My gpa is around 74-76%.

    Can anyone please tell me how much my gpa would count in the admission process? And is my prep so far on the right track? Should I do something extra to increase my chances in getting in to a CAMPEP accredited program?
     
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  3. Dec 22, 2013 #2
    Medical physics is a highly competitive field. I personally do not know many "C" students who became medical physicists, but that doesn't mean it is impossible. You should keep in mind that you will be competing for graduate school spots with plenty of people who have more complete backgrounds in physics along with stronger grades.

    Having an undergraduate research project in medical physics would be good for your application. Coming from a radiation therapy education background could be a positive or negative depending on who you ask. It could be a positive because of the different perspective you would bring with you to your graduate studies and career, but could also be a negative because radiation therapy is typically a profession track on its own and someone reviewing your application might wonder whether or not you really know what you want to do for a career.

    In any case, it is going to be very important to review the admissions requirements for graduate programs to make sure you meet the physics education requirements. You are also going to need to compare your completed coursework against the ABR/CCMP requirements for sitting for the board exams.

    If it is a possibility, you could increase your chances of finding a graduate school spot by applying to programs in the US as well. There are about 10 CAMPEP-accredited programs in Canada, and another 35 or so in the United States. If medical physics is something you really want to pursue then you should be aware of where you stand as an applicant and be as proactive as possible in finding a graduate school spot, and that might mean being a little more flexible in where you end up. You can always eventually go back to Canada to work if you are successful in your graduate studies and residency in the US.
     
  4. Dec 22, 2013 #3

    Choppy

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    Really the first question is whether or not you qualify to get in. Most medical physics programs in Canada are looking for you to have a background in physics and generally speaking a background in radiation therapy doesn't cut it. As I understand it there are a few programs in Ontario that are combining an RTtrack with a physics undergrad degree (I think Ryerson is doing this, but don't quote me on it). I know there is some concern among program directors as to whether or not this would qualify a student for graduate work in medical physics. The graduates of such streams have gone into graduate work within their own programs. I don't know how successful they've been in applying elsewhere.

    You did state though that you plan on beefing up your education with some upper year physics courses and I think that most programs will assess you based on the content of your coursework rather than the name of your degree.

    That said, GPA is a major factor in a competitive process. First, at ~ 75% in the Canadian system and depending on the conversion you're probably bordering on a 3.0, which is generally speaking a minimum standard for acceptance to graduate school. Less than this and your application won't even make it to the admissions committee. Beyond that, admission is a competitive process and as EricVT said, medical physics is a competitive field right now. GPA is not the only factor that you're evaluated on, but it is one of the big ones. Students that are typically admitted to the programs that I've been involved with usually have GPAs in the 3.5 and above range. I suspect that it's very similar across the country. On top of that, you have to remember that students with high GPAs also tend to have very great reference letters, and have done some research.

    In short - I'm not sure that there's a lot more you can really do other than try to get those grades up, make sure you're following a track that will qualify you for graduate school, and get involved in research.
     
  5. Dec 22, 2013 #4
    Okay, thanks a lot to both of you for the responses. I'm a little discouraged, considering I've just never been able to get my marks up in the 80s. Literally, I've always been a mid to high 70 student. I don't think that reflects the amount of work I put in or how much material I know... I'm just a horrible test taker. Even then I'm most likely still going to go for this career because of how much I'm interested in it, but incase I'm not able to get in, can you suggest me similar programs and careers? I'm aware of medical dosimetery but I also know in Canada you need to be working as a radiation therapist for a few years to gain experience and only then can you get training for medical dosimetry. I'm, however, hoping to continue school straight from completing my undergrad, thus medical dosimetery isn't too attracting. Even though it's still a backup, can you suggest any other careers and programs based on medical physics?

    Thanks a lot, These posts are honestly really helpful. :)
     
  6. Dec 22, 2013 #5

    Choppy

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    What is it about medical physics that interests you? And why don't you want to pursue radiation therapy?

    Radiation therapy and dosimetry are of course the two other professions that come to mind, but it seems like you know what those are all about.

    If you're interested in going to medical school then there is radiation oncology, as well as radiology and nuclear medicine - although if marks are the limiting factor for medical physics than they will be for medical school as well.

    There's also health physics and radiation protection. This field isn't as competitive as medical physics to get into. These guys do more than simply administrate your personal dosimeters. They can do quite a bit of work when a new centre is designed and built, or conduct investigations whenever an accident occurs (most of which aren't on the scale of Fukushima or Chernobyl).

    A number of people with radiation therapy backgrounds will often go into corporate positions too - like technical support, technical sales, trainers, etc. And they can have some pretty interesting and fulfilling careers.

    There are related technical professions as well: x-ray tech, MRI tech, nuclear medicine tech. Further, there are the electronics technologists who do the direct servicing of the machines. There are also many places that hire medical physics assistants who largely carry out the regular QA activities. Also, I should mention dedicated IT support. Larger medical physics departments will have dedicated IT staff to assist with network administration.

    If you coupled an RT degree with an MBA that might qualify you for medical administration positions. (Although to be fair, usually they look for people with lot of experience for such positions).

    Anyway, that's what I can think of right now.
     
  7. Dec 23, 2013 #6
    I did my placement at a cancer centre and got to shadow some medical physicists, and I really enjoyed what I saw. Also because in my whole undergrad, I've been most interested and done well on the medical physics courses. And lastly, I really want to pursue my further education based on physics since that is what I enjoy the most.

    How much do you know about the admission process of CAMPEP accredited programs? I mean, do you know what their views are on students graduating from medical physics masters programs (which aren't CAMPEP accredited)? I was thinking that if I don't get in a CAMPEP accredited program after doing my year of physics courses after graduating from my undergrad, I can maybe get into a non-CAMPEP accredited masters of biophysics/medical physics program and eitheir apply to a CAMPEP program during the completion of that program, or after I'm done it. How does that sound? Would my chances of getting in increase after that? (Supposing my grades are higher than they are now)
     
  8. Dec 24, 2013 #7

    Choppy

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    I can't speak for all CAMPEP programs, but I'm faculty within a Canadian CAMPEP-accredited program. It's not likely in anyone's best interest to have you complete a second MSc just for accreditation purposes. The natural progression would be for you to finish an MSc (either at an accredited or non-accredited institution) and then apply for a PhD at an accredited one. Your chances of acceptance would really depend on how you do in the MSc program and even a stellar performance won't wipe away undergrad records.
     
  9. Dec 27, 2013 #8
    Thanks for the advice, it's much more clear than the blur I was thinking. I actually have a few more questions I'd love to ask, if you don't mind.

    1) I've been reading many PF posts on health physics, how it still deals with doses but with a slightly different focus, which is also very interesting. However I'm not able to find where such programs exist, in which universities I mean, and whether they also require residencies? I found a similar undergrad program at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, called "Health Physics and Radiation Science".. is that the program you would go for? Are there any other programs which aren't undergrad, since I'm almost already done my undergrad already?

    2) Secondly, if I was to consider Dosimetry, how long would I typically have to be working as a Radiation Therapist for before I can go for training as a dosimetrist?

    3) Thirdly, what would be my job perspectives if I do a simple masters in medical/biophysics? Or if I also do a simple PhD after the masters? (by simple, I mean a non-accredited program). I obviously would not be allowed to work as a medical physicist in a cancer clinic (or would I be?).. the only job perspective I can think of is being a professor perhaps.
     
  10. Dec 27, 2013 #9

    Choppy

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    1.
    You don't actually *need* an advanced degree to work as a health physicist or radiation protection officer, although most of the people in these positions that I know have at least a master's degree. There is no residency. My understanding is that people are hired and then get trained on the job. I've seen a few people from medical physics graduate programs move into these positions for various reasons.

    Of course, there is also the academic side of things, for which you likely would need a graduate degree. There are still many interesting problems in health physics including long term low dose and low dose rate effects on large populations and radiation doses due to space flight and the impact on missions and astronaut health.

    I know McMaster has a very reputable program in this area.



    2.
    This really depends on where you end up working and how quickly a position opens up. At my centre, even entry-level therapists are rotated through a dosimetry roster about once every six months or so. In the larger centres my understanding is that right now it's difficult even to get a full time position. Realistically, I suspect you're looking at a couple of years working as a therapist anyway. It might be different in the US.

    (Gotta go - I'll come back to your third question later).
     
  11. Dec 28, 2013 #10

    Choppy

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    3. If you want to work in Canada membership with the CCPM or equivalent is generally desired although not legally required to work as a medical physicist. In Ontario, they have a somewhat different system in that you are expected to pass a provincial "peer review" exam, although membership with the college supersedes this. To write the membership exams, you will need to have come through an accredited program or residency by 2016. So I guess what all that means is that technically you could still work as a medical physicist if you come through a non-accredited program. But given the current state of the field, you wouldn't be very competitive, especially for the desirable positions.

    That said, there are other options for someone who comes through a non-accredited program. Some schools offer a year long post-PhD program that's basically just the coursework and gives you the certification needed to write the exams.

    Beyond that, your skill set is whatever you develop over your graduate work. You can, for example go out into industry and get a job in research and development or troubleshooting with one of the larger companies. Because they aren't directly treating patients they care more about specific skill sets.
     
  12. Jan 12, 2014 #11
    One of My friend faced the same situation, and at the time of choosing the college we faced the same pressure where to suggest him for his further studies. As Canada is good for Medical studies, if you wish to continue from there then you should for sure, but as you shared that your background is with physics then take the right discussion, I must say. But you have choices then I recommend you to join Medical Colleges of Romania. They offers a student friendly environment and the career after completion of courses are highly bright. The cost-effective living gives you a great survival, you don't have think much for your living. There is not any problems of your grade and all, even some colleges also offers you direct entrance. A various European consultancy is one the way to gives you a bright medical future, you can visit and know more for your convenience I am giving you the url which you can visit and know the exact procedure, what to do and where to do..:) You can search a complete procedure for your medical studies from here: studymedabroad.com


    I hope the information will helpful for you.

    Wish you a bright future...:)

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
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