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Medical Physics

  • Thread starter poobar
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Hey all!
I am a sophomore Physics major and recently I was able to listen to a lecture about Medical Physics. It really grabbed my interest, much more so than any other lecture about research/work in Physics. I am just looking for as much information as possible about this field. How much school will I have to go through, what are the chances of getting a job in this field, current research, etc.

Thanks!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Hi poobar,

I'm currently doing my masters in Med. Phys. It's an interesting field, with a chance to apply physics knowledge to directly helping people. However, much of the clinical work is repetitive, "technician style" work. If you're not good spending most of your time on repetitive tasks, clinical medical physics might not be for you (research might still work, but research positions tend to be very competitive).

The typical path taken to work in the field (in Canada and US, I understand across the ocean things are different) is to complete your undergrad, and then complete (at least) a masters in medical physics. After that, you need a residency. The residencies are very competitive, so typically it is better to have a PhD, rather than just a masters when applying. After a 2 year residency, you write the certification exams, and go job hunting.

It's been my observation (in Canada, and restricted to graduates from my institution) that everyone who graduated with a PhD was able to find a residency, and everyone who finished their residency was able to find a clinical position (except for 2 people who decided to pursue additional education in other fields, rather than find a residency/job). Take this with a grain of salt, as there have been members here at PF from the US recently complaining about the lack of jobs, so your mileage may vary.
 
  • #3
Choppy
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I generally agree with what NeoDevin has to say here. Although personally speaking, the clinical aspects of my job are not all that repetative.

You might want to look into student membership with the AAPM.
 
  • #4
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What exactly do you do in the clinical work? This is very good information, thank you!
 
  • #5
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As a grad student, my clinical work has been limited to QA. This includes both machine QA, routine tests on the linacs and other clinical radiation units to ensure that they are performing within acceptable limits, and patient specific QA, measuring the dose distribution for individual patient treatment plans to ensure that what is being delivered is what is intended.

Choppy can probably elaborate more on any other aspects with which I have no experience yet.
 
  • #6
Choppy
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Clinical work for a radation therapy physicist can vary considerably from centre to centre. As a general list duties would include:
- machine commissioning and output calibration
- commissioning and calibration of measurement equipment
- establishing and maintaining a quality assurance (QA) program
- treatment planning duties, which can include:
- second checking treatment plans,
- consulting with physicians and treatment planners on particularly difficult plans,
- policy definition and development
- in some centres physicists will even do some of the planning
- NOTE: the physicist is generally the only one who understands how the treatment planning system works (and more importantly how is doesn't work)
- measurements to ensure doses to critical structures like pacemakers is acceptable
- network and computer administation - particularly on the networks pertaining to linear accelerators, CT-simulators and your treatment planning system(s)
- radiation safety duties (monitoring doses to staff, radiation surveys, shielding calculations, training)
- assessing new treatment modalities and equipment
- assisting with the design and implementation of clinical studies
- general clinical problem-solving such as figuring out what to do when one of your routine QA measurement falls outside of tolerance

That's the clinical side. There's also research and teaching.
 

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