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University of Rhode Island — Medical Physics
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The Field
What is Medical Physics?

An example of radiation dosimetery software used by medical physicists.

Medical physics in its simplest definition is the application and study of physics in medicine. Certified medical physicists often work with medical imaging, radiation therapy/ diagnosis, and nuclear medicine. While most focus on cancer-related topics, medical physicists work in many other disciplines of medicine including those concerned with heart disease and mental illness.

According to the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM), "medical physicists are concerned with three areas of activity: clinical service and consultation, research and development, and teaching. On the average their time is distributed equally among these three areas." For example, in clinical work, medical physicists use sophisticated software and calculations to plan precise radiation treatment for patients with cancer.

Most medical physicists specialize in various forms of therapy and diagnosis of cancer. However, there are many areas of specialization; some of these are described in the Career section.

Important Topics and Issues

Medical physicists often find themselves working with cancer therapies. With cancer rates rising, medical physicists are expected to find an increased demand for their services. This can be an exciting field for those who are interested in helping others while using and developing advanced, progressive technology. This career is a great opportunity for students with a background in physics to apply their knowledge in a new and innovative way.