According to the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM), medical physicists will divide their time, often equally, between three areas: clinical service and consultation; research and development; and teaching. For this reason, a career in medical physics can satisfy a studentís need for practical application (clinical service) and theory (research and development) while also giving those who love to share their passion an opportunity to teach!
In hospitals and clinical settings, medical physicists play a vital role in diagnosis and treatment of patients and they often work closely with physician colleagues in patient care. In cancer-based work and research, medical physicists usually work with applications of radiation and radionuclides. The AAPM notes: "In radiation oncology departments, one important example is the planning of radiation treatments for cancer patients, using either external radiation beams or internal radioactive sources."
According to AAPM, "Medical physicists play a vital and often leading role on the medical research team. Their activities cover wide frontiers, including such key areas as cancer, heart disease, and mental illness." Once again, medical physicists working with cancer will often focus on issues involving radiation. These include the effect of radiation on biological mechanisms, the application of new equipment and software, and the development of new radiation-measurement techniques with great precision and accuracy. Medical physicists can also conduct research concerning other areas of medicine that involve various forms of equipment, software, and measurement/imaging techniques.
Since medical physicists have a wealth of specialized knowledge and skills, they often find themselves teaching and training others in the field. For example, AAPM reports "Often medical physicists have faculty appointments at universities and colleges, where they help train future medical physicists, resident physicians, medical students, and technologists who operate the various types of equipment used to perform diagnosis and treatment."
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