open access

Vol 20, No 3 (2015)
Reviews
Published online: 2015-05-01
Submitted: 2014-02-10
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Medical physics in radiotherapy: The importance of preserving clinical responsibilities and expanding the profession's role in research, education, and quality control

Julian Malicki
DOI: 10.1016/j.rpor.2015.01.001
·
Rep Pract Oncol Radiother 2015;20(3):161-169.

open access

Vol 20, No 3 (2015)
Reviews
Published online: 2015-05-01
Submitted: 2014-02-10

Abstract

Medical physicists have long had an integral role in radiotherapy. In recent decades, medical physicists have slowly but surely stepped back from direct clinical responsibilities in planning radiotherapy treatments while medical dosimetrists have assumed more responsibility. In this article, I argue against this gradual withdrawal from routine therapy planning. It is essential that physicists be involved, at least to some extent, in treatment planning and clinical dosimetry for each and every patient; otherwise, physicists can no longer be considered clinical specialists. More importantly, this withdrawal could negatively impact treatment quality and patient safety. Medical physicists must have a sound understanding of human anatomy and physiology in order to be competent partners to radiation oncologists. In addition, they must possess a thorough knowledge of the physics of radiation as it interacts with body tissues, and also understand the limitations of the algorithms used in radiotherapy. Medical physicists should also take the lead in evaluating emerging challenges in quality and safety of radiotherapy. In this sense, the input of physicists in clinical audits and risk assessment is crucial. The way forward is to proactively take the necessary steps to maintain and advance our important role in clinical medicine.

Abstract

Medical physicists have long had an integral role in radiotherapy. In recent decades, medical physicists have slowly but surely stepped back from direct clinical responsibilities in planning radiotherapy treatments while medical dosimetrists have assumed more responsibility. In this article, I argue against this gradual withdrawal from routine therapy planning. It is essential that physicists be involved, at least to some extent, in treatment planning and clinical dosimetry for each and every patient; otherwise, physicists can no longer be considered clinical specialists. More importantly, this withdrawal could negatively impact treatment quality and patient safety. Medical physicists must have a sound understanding of human anatomy and physiology in order to be competent partners to radiation oncologists. In addition, they must possess a thorough knowledge of the physics of radiation as it interacts with body tissues, and also understand the limitations of the algorithms used in radiotherapy. Medical physicists should also take the lead in evaluating emerging challenges in quality and safety of radiotherapy. In this sense, the input of physicists in clinical audits and risk assessment is crucial. The way forward is to proactively take the necessary steps to maintain and advance our important role in clinical medicine.

Get Citation

Keywords

Medical physics; Profession; Education; Professional training

About this article
Title

Medical physics in radiotherapy: The importance of preserving clinical responsibilities and expanding the profession's role in research, education, and quality control

Journal

Reports of Practical Oncology and Radiotherapy

Issue

Vol 20, No 3 (2015)

Pages

161-169

Published online

2015-05-01

DOI

10.1016/j.rpor.2015.01.001

Bibliographic record

Rep Pract Oncol Radiother 2015;20(3):161-169.

Keywords

Medical physics
Profession
Education
Professional training

Authors

Julian Malicki

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