Medical physics is the
application of physics to medicine. It generally concerns physics as applied to
medical imaging and radiotherapy, although a medical physicist may also work in
many other areas of healthcare. A medical physics department may be based in
either a hospital or a university and its work is likely to include research,
technical development and clinical healthcare.
Of the large body of medical
physicists in academia and clinics, roughly 85% practice or specialize in
various forms of therapy, 10% in Diagnostic imaging, and 5% in nuclear
medicine. Areas of specialty in medical physics however are widely varied in
scope and breadth.
Clinical medical physicists
are a very important part of the radiation oncology team. Their primary role is
to assure that the highest level of quality care is maintained. The medical
physics group design and implement the quality assurance program in radiation
oncology. They are responsible for selecting and specifying the types of
equipment that are used in radiation therapy. After new equipment is installed,
the medical physicist assures that the equipment meets or exceeds
Once the equipment is
accepted, the physicist is responsible for commissioning the equipment, which
involves taking enough measurements so that the equipment can be used
clinically. Measurement data must also be transferred to other computer systems
so that patient treatments can be planned. The medical physicist is frequently
consulted by the radiation oncologist to help design a treatment that is
difficult or unusual. A physicist is responsible for doing the quality
assurance of every treatment plan before it starts. He or she checks that the
planned information has been correctly transferred to the machine, that the
plan agrees with the physicians prescription, that beam-on times are correct
for each treatment field, and that all information is consistent,
understandable, and well-documented.
Medical Physicists are
physicists who receive advanced training in Medical Physics. Training programs
resulting in the Master or Doctorate provide physicist with the skill set
necessary to work in a clinical medical environment.
After several years of
internship, Medical Physicists sit for the examination in Therapeutic
Radiological Physics by the American Board of Radiology, an American Board of
Medical Specialist board.
Physicists are one of the
few non physician specialties certified by a medical specialty board.