Improving Health Through Medical Physics


Saiful Huq, PhD | Pittsburgh, PA

AAPM Newsletter — Volume 44 No.2 — March | April 2019

It is with great humility and excitement that I write my first article in the AAPM Newsletter as your President-elect. AAPM is the premier society of medical physicists in the world because of you, the members of AAPM, and the value and dedication that you bring to fulfilling the society's mission: advancing medicine through excellence in the science, education and professional practice of medical physics. I am grateful to have crossed paths with hundreds of you over the years, and I have often found that your stories and your vision as members of AAPM bear great resemblance to my own. While I am eager to discuss specific initiatives for AAPM over the upcoming year, I would like to begin my tenure by sharing some personal stories and experiences with you, with the hope that together, our stories will inspire us mutually and pave the way for our work over the coming years.

I was born in Bangladesh in a middle-class family that emphasized the importance of making an impact on others' lives through public service. My father spent his entire professional life working for the Bangladesh Ansar, an organization that provides volunteer services to the country. My late elder brother became a national role model for his services as a business person and as the mayor of the northern part of Dhaka, the nation's capital city. One of my younger brothers dedicated his career to the service of the nation by working in the Bangladesh Army. It was in this early life environment that the spirit of rendering public service was instilled in me; it would go on to shape my entire professional career.

Like many of you, I was naturally drawn toward physics from childhood. As I progressed through my education, my overarching goal was to find ways to combine my love for physics with a profession that could be dedicated to doing something for the greater good for those who are ailing. Like many in the profession of medical physics, I chose to immigrate to the United States to pursue higher education and fulfill this dream. I completed my PhD in Atomic and Molecular Physics from the College of William and Mary—where even more importantly, I met my wife Marian—and went on to complete two postdoctoral fellowships, first at William and Mary and then at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. I then stumbled into medical physics during a subsequent postdoctoral fellowship at Yale. During those formative years, I felt at home and realized that medical physics was the perfect avenue through which I could combine my love for physics with the ability to improve human health around the world.

Despite my excitement about medical physics, I soon realized that navigating early years of fulfilling the triad mission of academia—patient care, teaching, and research—and forging a career path in the real world are formidable tasks. I was fortunate to be surrounded by strong mentors and great friends who guided my growth and development. As I became more immersed in medical physics, the most gratifying moments were often the human ones—the feeling of accomplishment clinically, scientifically, and professionally by working with colleagues, young and old; seeing a smile on the face of a mother on the last day of radiation treatment of her child; and seeing a healthy newborn of a young woman who had successfully undergone radiation treatment for breast cancer while pregnant. Even more rewarding was the mother's follow-up appointment years later, as her then-three-year old child rambunctiously ran laps around the department while she offered her heartfelt thanks for our team's efforts in helping her bring a healthy child into this world. I know these are your stories, too, and it is these human moments that affirm why we do what we do.

As my passion for medical physics grew, I found myself wanting to become further involved in efforts to advance our field and contribute to its growth. I first explored organized medical physics by joining the AAPM Ethics Committee. These organizational-level initiatives excited me and became an increasingly important part of my career; I became deeply involved with many AAPM committee and Task Group activities as well as other professional societies and organizations such as IAEA, ASTRO, and radiation oncology and medical physics societies around the world.

The bedrock of my career to date has been the guidance and wisdom of close mentors and colleagues. One of the key drivers in my decision to run for AAPM President was to promote similar opportunities for others in our field, with a particular focus on developing our young generation. We are at an exciting juncture in our organization's history with unprecedented opportunities ahead of us amidst a changing healthcare landscape. We find ourselves immersed in an explosion of new technologies and data, incredible advances in medical imaging, genomics, computation science and biology, and the emergence of artificial intelligence and Big Data that will revolutionize the way we practice medicine today. Medical physicists play a pivotal role in transforming laboratory science into essential technologies in imaging and radiotherapy to improve the quality of life and safety of patients. To meet these challenges, my charge is to position AAPM and its members to be leaders in this changing healthcare landscape. I will focus my term as AAPM President on investing in our young generation and promoting excellence in a few key areas: Professional, Clinical, Science, Education, and AAPM Governance. I'll discuss these initiaitves more in future newsletters, but if you would like to read more now, the goals I have outlined can be found at this link.

I ask you to join our AAPM leadership team in working together on this journey. We will build opportunities for fellow medical physicists, clinical and scientific, domestically and globally. We will continue striving for excellence in patient care, and we will push the boundaries of our scientific knowledge. We have incredible opportunities before us, and I am confident that we will seize them. Together, we will forge the future of medical physics.

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