Non-clinical medical physics is a growing cohort within the AAPM. Addressing the needs of all Members of the AAPM employed as medical physicists in these cohorts is critical to ensuring relevant access to available resources. Non-clinical events, AAPM resources, and new introductions to fellow AAPM members are highlighted to allow quick access to applicable content from the AAPM. Contact the Working Group for Non-Clinical Professionals with other material or to request new content suitable to non-clinical medical physics professionals.
In addition to the traditional path into clinical medical physics, numerous fulfilling non-clinical career opportunities exist in medical physics professions outside of direct clinical work. Some of those occupations are highlighted here:
Academic medical physicists pursue research and educational activities. Their research is often focused on improving disease diagnosis and/or treatment. Research can be developmental (creating new techniques, applications, or approaches), theoretical (e.g., developing methods for scientific analysis of images), or translational (adapting techniques for direct use in the clinic). In a university setting, these physicists may work in medical physics, physics, medical (oncology, radiology, etc.), or engineering departments. As such, they may teach medical physics and related subjects to future medical physicists or to a larger population within these departments. Different positions have a range of teaching, clinical, research, professional development, and administrative duties. Additionally, there are positions outside of universities that physicists may pursue including positions at large research facilities (e.g., National Cancer Institute (NCI), research hospitals).
Industry careers combine the knowledge of modern health-care delivery with scientific research, product development, and experimental design. Roles include research and development, sales, product management, customer support and training, programming, and marketing. Some companies have physicists work at or with university researchers to best implement and integrate their research in the clinic.
Medical physicist administrators are typically experienced clinicians that work closely with physician, executive, and administrative leadership teams to manage medical physics-related operations and execute the overall strategic vision of the organization. These medical physicist administrators can provide leadership for different departments, from radiation oncology to nuclear medicine to radiology. They work within multidisciplinary teams to handle organizational tasks such as to develop technical and quality standards, provide scientific and technical guidance, participate in design and construction projects, provide guidance for information technology applications, participate in capital asset management and procurement, provide oversight for educational activities including degree-granting or residency programs, and support research initiatives. In addition to medical physics competence, medical physicist administrators need strong communication, people leadership and management skills, financial literacy, strategic thinking ability, and broad knowledge of department operations.
Health physics positions revolve around the effects of radiation on human health; typically, for the protection of populations from the risks of ionizing radiation. Health physicists monitor doses, and design and implement new measures for controlling dose. Health physicists typically work at nuclear power plants, pharmaceutical companies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), universities, and hospitals. However, health physicists are also actively recruited to serve in the military, other government agencies (e.g., US State Department, the US Central Intelligence Agency) and other civilian organizations. For those employed in a hospital or university setting, the job title tends to be Radiation Safety Officer (RSO), but the job description is very similar. Health physics is also a field of active research.
A career in regulation can include many different roles at different government agencies including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the US similar agencies in other countries. At the FDA, medical physicists work as scientific reviewers of the safety and effectiveness of new or modified diagnostic imaging, radiation therapy, and image processing devices prior to entry in the market. Physicists at the FDA may also conduct original scientific research and can be involved in the development of new policies and regulations. Some positions at the NRC include licensing new medical devices, inspecting hospital compliance with regulations, and setting new licensing guidelines for emerging technologies. Physicists employed at NIST primarily work on providing calibration standards for ionization chambers and electrometers used for radiation oncology and nuclear medicine, but also work on phantom standardization as well as research and calibration standards for non-ionizing radiation applications.
Science policy careers are found on Capitol Hill, within government agencies, and at universities. There is an ever-increasing need for research-trained scientists to contribute to the creation of the policies that regulate and guide scientific and medical fields.
Science writers are primarily responsible for educating a non-scientific audience about scientific research. Science writers often work at universities, national laboratories, non-profit foundations, and media outlets.
These descriptions were extracted from the series of blog posts on non-clinical careers published on the AAPM Student & Trainees Subcommittee blog. The full blog posts can be found here.
The Working Group for Non-Clinical Professionals (WGNC) is committed to ensuring that qualified and deserving professionals are being regularly nominated for Fellowship, particularly those in non-clinical cohorts that are lacking in Fellows. If you have a recommendation for an AAPM member that should be considered for Fellowship in the AAPM, please complete the following form and the WGNC will be notified. (Note that completing this form does not ensure nomination.)
Then below that if we can have a "Submit a Qualifying AAPM member for Fellowship Nomination from the WGNC" title with a box below it that allows for user entry of both name and AAPM ID and then allows the user to submit that information to the firstname.lastname@example.org email address (so that all WGNC members get the email).