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Medical Physics subfields, residency, etc.

  1. Feb 5, 2016 #1
    I have a few questions about Medical Physics that I am hoping someone can answer. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

    1. What is the difference between the four subfields of Medical Physics: Therapeutic Medical Physics, Diagnostic Medical Physics, Nuclear Medical Physics, and Medical Health Physics?

    2. Do you apply and enter a residency in one of the four subfields and then can only have a job in that one specific area or can you enter a residency regardless of which area it is and have a job in any of the four areas?

    3. What is the difference between a DMP and a PhD in Medical Physics?

    4. Also, I wanted to point out that I recently got interested in Medical Physics from having conversations with my older brother who is finishing his Master of Science in Medical Physics. He is getting his Master of Science in Medical Physics online from some international school in Europe (I don't know the name of it) and originally wanted to move to Germany after he finished the program, but now he recently changed his mind and wants to stay in the U.S. after he finishes it up. What would he have to do now because his international school isn't apart of the CAMPEP if he wants to get a residency in the U.S. for Medical Physics after he finishes his program? If I do intend to enter a graduate Medical Physics program later on I am definitely entering one that is apart of the CAMPEP so I don't have any complications.

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 5, 2016 #2
    Let me refer you to the American Association of Physicists in Medicine website


    It discusses the various branches.
  4. Feb 5, 2016 #3


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    1. That's a big question. Gleem's link to the AAPM site should sum it up.
      Therapeutic (or radiation oncology physics) deals with delivering radiation, usually to a cancerous volume, to cure or palliate the disease. The specific clinical duties of a medical physicist are very broad, but will include commissioning and calibrating linear acceleratiors and imaging equipment, running QA programs to make sure that the machines are operating within tolerances, administrating the computer networks and applications that are used to plan treatments, planning treatments, solving technical problems that arise around the clinic, etc.

      In diagnostic imaging the medical physicist is concerned with making sure that imaging devices are running in an optimal manner to ensure that image quality is the best it can be for the dose of radiation that's being delivered. It's a lot of commissiong and QA work from what I understand.

      MRI, while technically "diagnostic" in nature as well, tends to be its own specailty because the physics is considerably different (readling with RF rather than ionizing radiation).

      Nuclear Medicine Physics tends to deal mostly with PET and SPECT imaging - again optimizing the imaging of radiopharmeceuticals that get distributed through a patient. There can also be a therapeutic compontent to it as well - planning radionuclide therapy, for example.

      Health Physics generally means radiation protection. This the branch of the field that makes sure that hospitals and other facilities with nuclear substances or devices that can generate ionizing radiation are compliant with regulations, monitoring doses to staff, and aspects of facility design (how much concrete is required to make sure that the guy in the office over the linac is safe).

    2. Certification comes in one branch and residencies are usually specific to one branch. You can get certified in multiple branches though, assuming that you get the appropriate experience. The rules are here: http://www.theabr.org/ic-rp-req
    3. DMP is a professional degree. It's awarded by specific programs and is generally regarded as equivalent to an MSc with two years of clinical training. The PhD is a research/academic degree and takes a lot longer to complete. The DMP will usually have had a smaller research or clinical project, whereas the PhD will have generated some original research in the field. Which one is more competative in the job market is a toss-up and will depend on what your personal goals are. Generally, if you want to be doing research or teaching in the field, the PhD is the more competative degree. If you're primarily interested in clincial work and MSc or DMP is sufficient and in some cases even more desired (anecdotally because the idea is that a PhD will want to do research and therefore won't dedicate as much time to the clinic).
    4. This is the place to look I believe: http://www.theabr.org/ic-int-rp

    For further reading:
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