Medical Physics in Radiation Oncology
Tom Mazur (U'07)
Department of Radiation Oncology, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Applications of physics pervade medicine. Contemporary “Medical Physics” refers mostly to careers in nuclear medicine, radiology and radiation oncology departments that provide support for the safe and effective delivery of radiation to cancer patients for both diagnostics and therapy. Day-to-day responsibilities specifically in radiation oncology can be highly variable and diverse. Medical physicists provide support in nearly all aspects of a patient’s treatment including “simulation” CT and MRI imaging prior to treatment, treatment planning where radiation is designed to achieve a physician’s prescription, and radiation delivery (e.g. at a linear accelerator, brachytherapy procedure, or radiopharmaceutical administration). Beyond patient treatments, physicists implement new tools and technologies into clinics and ensure the equipment and procedures in use maintain high quality standards. Through these core responsibilities, opportunities arise for innovating and implementing novel technologies that can contribute toward improving outcomes for cancer patients. Medical physics thus is a unique field that combines a day-to-day job with core responsibilities with impactful research opportunities. In this talk, I will describe careers in medical physics, including necessary pre-requisites and training, day-to-day responsibilities, various technologies, and opportunities for research.