What is a medical physicist?
Medical Physicists work in any area of Medicine that involves physics! In New Zealand there are two main areas: Radiation Oncology and Diagnostic Radiology.
In Radiation Oncology we ensure that cancer patients receiving radiation therapy as part or all of their treatment receive the correct dose of radiation in a safe manner. Radiation used in radiation therapy is powerful enough to kill cancer but conversely powerful enough to do a lot of damage to patients if delivered incorrectly. It’s the physicists’ job to ensure that linear accelerators used in the delivery of radiation give the correct dose to millimetre accuracy. This involves extensive measurements when new equipment is put into use & regular quality assurance on all treatment devices. Physicists also assist radiation therapists & radiation oncologists in planning individual patient’s treatment and checking that it is delivered correctly.
Physicists working in diagnostic radiology manage the safe and optimal use of a multitude of imaging technologies. This work includes the commissioning and regular testing of equipment for x-ray imaging, CT scanning, mammography, interventional radiology, cardiac imaging, ultrasound, nuclear medicine imaging, PET, and medical image display systems. These tests include safety checks to meet regulatory requirements. Some physicists working in nuclear medicine also dispense and look after the safe use of unsealed radioactive material for treatments such as radioactive iodine for treating thyroid disease.
Physicists initially do an undergraduate degree in physics and then go onto a 5 year training scheme based in a hospital. This involves completing a Masters degree in medical physics as well as extensive training on the job.
Qualified Medical Physicists hold accreditation from the Australasian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine (ACPSEM) or equivalent international qualifications.
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