Diagnostic Radiology Medical Physicists: Who Are We?

Clinically qualified medical physicists (CQMPs) play a crucial role in sustaining the safe, quality and effective use of radiation for diagnostic purposes, and their role in this regard must not be overlooked, participants agreed at a side event at the IAEA’s 66th General Conference today .

Highly trained professionals with specialized training in the medical application of radiation physics, medical physicists evaluate practices that involve medical exposure and optimize the physical aspects of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in terms of benefits and risks. They calibrate imaging equipment to ensure the accurate and safe delivery of radiation to patients, implement appropriate quality assurance programs, including quality control measures, and assess radiation doses and associated risks to patients and personnel.

At the side event, ‘Diagnostic Radiology Medical Physicists: Who Are We?,’ participants focused on the role that the IAEA plays in helping to promote the value of CQMPs, including the resources and activities it implements in support of diagnostic radiology medical physics. Participants learned about the available IAEA guidelines and tools to support countries in defining the adequate roles and responsibilities of CQMPs, identifying the corresponding education and training needs, and recognizing the vital role played by medical physics profession through certification.

Counting medical physicists, national nuclear regulators and hospital managers among its audience, the 26 September event built on the shared perspectives and conclusions emerging from a 2020 event held at the 64th IAEA General Conference, which primarily focussed on improving the implementation framework of the International Basic Safety Standards.

“There are billions of operations performed annually using different technologies that study the human body for the purpose of diagnosing, monitoring or treating medical conditions. Most of these technologies use radiation to provide information, related to a possible disease, injury or the effectiveness of medical treatment. A mistake, misuse or malfunction of an X-ray machine, for example, can affect the diagnosis of the patient, and therefore it is essential to ensure the use of X-ray systems are closely monitored using established quality assurance programs. Today’s event will provide the overview of the support provided by the IAEA to the medical physics profession,” said Eve-Kulli Kala, Director of the IAEA Technical Cooperation Division for Europe and Central Asia.

The panellists discussed many topics, starting with the support provided by the IAEA to the medical physics profession, followed by the difference between radiologists and medical physicists and how radiation protection in hospitals has evolved after introducing medical physicists to the field. Additionally, the panel described the education needed to become a medical physicist and the responsibilities it entails, the challenges of setting up a medical physics department and the integration of diagnostic radiology medical physicists into a clinical team.

“Introduction of a medical physicist profession at our medical facility has completely changed the way we approach radiation-related diagnostic procedures. Before, we relied on the supplier for the procurement of the X-ray units and other equipment. We had no quality control protocols in place, patient doses had not been tracked or analyzed, even the term ‘clinical audit’ was unknown to the majority of the staff. Five years after we hired our first medical physicist, we started to control procurement by drafting technical specifications, developed quality control protocols and developed a patient dose management software. Most of the knowledge we needed to come to these achievements came as the result of the technical cooperation with the IAEA,” said Professor Boris Brkljacic from the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology at University Hospital Dubrava.

The IAEA supports medical physicists through its technical cooperation program by sending expert missions to hospitals, providing national training courses, facilitating fellowships that train young medical physicist professionals in the area of ​​diagnostic radiology and organizing scientific visits for senior hospital staff to exchange views on how the medical physics departments should work and develop to ensure that patients receive safe and quality medical service.

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