Consider a Career in Medical Physics

Who are Medical Physicists?

Medical physicists are health care professionals with specialized training in the medical applications of physics. They are scientists with graduate training in physics (M.Sc. or Ph.D.) and membership in the Canadian College of Physicists in Medicine (CCPM). Their work involves the use of radioisotopes, x-rays, ultrasound, magnetic and electric fields in diagnosis and therapy. Most medical physicists work in hospital diagnostic imaging departments, cancer treatment facilities, or hospital-based research establishments. Others work in universities, government, and industry.

What do Medical Physicists do?

Medical physics is divided into two main areas: radiation therapy and diagnostic imaging.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy radiation in the treatment of cancer. The roles of a medical physicist in radiation therapy include treatment planning and radiotherapy machine design, testing, calibration, and troubleshooting.

Diagnostic Imaging

Diagnostic imaging physicists are involved in the uses of x-ray, ultrasound, magnetic resonance, and nuclear medicine for imaging patients. The roles of a medical physicist in diagnostic imaging include machine purchasing and installation, testing, quality control, and operation.

Medical physicists in both radiation therapy and diagnostic imaging are often involved in research and teaching. Medical physicists play a central role in such areas as the construction of radiotherapy treatment equipment and the development of new imaging techniques. Most medical physicists are affiliated with universities and teach in graduate and undergraduate medical physics and physics programs.

Professional Status

Canadian medical physicists are members of the the Canadian College of Physicists in Medicine (CCPM). Candidates with suitable educational background and experience become members of the college by passing written examinations.

Employment of Medical Physicists in Canada

There are approximately 250 medical physicists working in Canada: 75% work in hospitals and hospital-based research establishments, 7% work for government, 8% for industry, and an additional 10% are university faculty who are not hospital-based. The number of medical physics positions has generally increased by about 5-10% per year.

How Much Do Medical Physicists Get Paid?

The demand for medical physicists has increased greatly in the past few years. This has lead to a rapid increase in salaries. Currently, medical physicists in Manitoba can make up to $125,000 per year.

How Do I Become a Medical Physicist?

To become a medical physicist you need to first earn a B.Sc. honours degree in physics. After earning a B.Sc., you must complete a graduate degree (M.Sc. or Ph.D.) in Medical Physics. During a graduate degree, students are often supported through an award or grant. One then typically then completes a two year training program (residency) in medical physics, during which the resident rotates through clinical postings. These include external beam dosimetry, treatment planning, brachytherapy and provide practical experience in Radiotherapy Physics.

In Manitoba, medical physics residents are paid approximately $50,000 - $66,000 per year, depending on qualifications and experience.

To Learn More About Medical Physics Contact:

Dr. Stephen Pistorius
Division of Medical Physics
CancerCare Manitoba
675 McDermot Ave
Tel 204-787-2211
Email: graduate@cancercare.mb.ca

 

To Learn More About a B.Sc. Degree in Physics Contact:
Dr. P. Blunden
Department of Physics and Astronomy
301 Allen Building
University of Manitoba
Tel 204-474-9817
Web site: www.physics.umanitoba.ca

 

See also: the Canadian Organization of Medical Physics

Medical Physics Residency Training Program

CancerCare Manitoba operates a Medical Physics Clinical Residency training program for radiation oncology medical physics.  The program has operated continuously for over 20 years and is externally accredited by CAMPEP (Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs; www.campep.org) with initial accreditation achieved in 2009.
This two year training program prepares candidates for a clinical medical physics position, providing detailed clinical instruction in rotations covering radiation dosimetry, treatment planning, brachytherapy, and radiation protection.  Candidates are required to complete a comprehensive set of skill signoffs in each rotation and numerous oral exams throughout the training program. 
Our graduates are well-prepared to work as clinical medical physicists and are also eligible to take the national certification exam offered by the Canadian College of Physicists in Medicine.

Please view the Medical Physics Manitoba website for additional information.

Graduate Studies

Clinical Medical and Health Physics is an exciting and expanding field of physics which applies our fundamental knowledge of physics to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a variety of human conditions. In conjunction with CancerCare Manitoba, the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manitoba offers training in Medical and Health Physics that leads to MSc and Ph.D. degrees. A comprehensive (course based) MSc as well as research (thesis) based MSc and Ph.D. degrees are offered through this program.

CancerCare Manitoba is committed to becoming a centre of choice for patients, staff and students and through the CAMPEP accredited comprehensive MSc program, students are able to get a solid grounding in all aspects of Radiological and Health Physics, prior to having to make a decision to enter a specialized clinical residency or Ph.D. research program. This is a challenging 36 credit hour program that will prepare the capable student for a clinical residency. For those students who wish to spend more time on research and/or who are committed to enter a Ph.D. program the research based MSc provides a good entry point and for excellent students a conversion from the research based MSc to a CAMPEP accredited Ph.D. is possible.

At the start of their studies, comprehensive MSc students and students entering or converting to a Ph.D. program are provided with a checklist detailing the items that must be completed in order to meet the elements required as part of a CAMPEP (Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs, Inc.) accredited program. The appropriate instructor must sign off each completed element on this form. Once all requirements have been met, the form will be reviewed by the Chair of the Examination Subcommittee for completeness and signed off by the Program Director. A certificate of completion will be provided to qualifying students together with their degree certificate only if all of the CAMPEP requirements have been met. Note: The research (thesis) based MSc is designed for students entering the field and does not meet the requirements for CAMPEP accreditation.

The Division of Medical Physics at CancerCare Manitoba has 18 physicists and close to 60 staff and students and is structured around five distinct yet interdependent service departments: Radiation Protection, Imaging Physics, Radiotherapy Physics, Medical Devices, and Nuclear Electronics.

Each of the service departments has a core of expertise which is available for the student to tap into whether it be to facilitate the manufacture of some piece of unique equipment required for their research or to answer some esoteric question on the nature of radiation transport. Medical Physicists have appointments in both the Department of Physics and Astronomy as well as the Department of Radiology and most have academic/teaching, research and clinical responsibilities. They also teach Radiation Oncology and Radiology Residents training program as well radiation therapy students in CancerCare Manitoba's, School of Radiation Therapy.

Graduate Student applications are handled by the University of Manitoba and interested students are directed to the Department of Physics and Astronomy web site for further information.

Students will spend much of their time at CancerCare Manitoba which is located on the Bannatyne (Medical) campus but will be required to travel to the Fort Garry Campus for some classes, seminars or to TA. A shuttle bus between the two campuses is available during the academic term. More information on the specific degrees, facilities, funding and Divisional research interests can be found by clicking on an area of interest on the navigation bar to the left.

Graduate Program in Medical Physics

Room ON 0116D
675 McDermot Ave
Winnipeg, MB R3E 0V9
Phone:
204-787-2211
Fax: 204-786-0644
Email: graduate@cancercare.mb.ca

Medical Physics Academic Program Director:
Stephen Pistorius, Ph.D., P.Phys.

Administrative Assistant:
Alana Dahlin
204-787-2211

Faculty: (in alphabetical order)
Jorge Alpuche, Ph.D., MCCPM
204-787-4963

Jeff Bews, Ph.D., FCCPM
204-787-1804

Idris Elbakri, Ph.D., MCCPM
204-787-2856

Ingvar Fife, Ph.D.
204-787-2213

Harry Ingleby, Ph.D., MCCPM
204-787-2126

Boyd McCurdy, Ph.D., FCCPM
204-787-1966

Stephen Pistorius, Ph.D., P. Phys.
204-787-4134

Daniel Rickey, Ph.D., MCCPM
204-787-1764

Ryan Rivest, Ph.D., MCCPM
204-787-2297

Lawrence Ryner, Ph.D.
204-787-8537

Eric VanUytven, Ph.D., MCCPM
204-787-4445

Sankaranarayanan Venkataraman, Ph.D., MCCPM
204-787-1862

MSc Comprehensive Program

The M.Sc. program, which takes a minimum of two years to complete, prepares students for a career in Clinical Medical Physics and/or Health Physics.

The coursework is comprehensive, extensive, and challenging. The didactic courses are supplemented by laboratory courses designed to give students hands-on experience with some of the equipment and techniques employed in Radiotherapy, Medical Imaging and Health Physics. In addition, a six-month period of research, in an approved laboratory and submission of a research report describing the research work is required.

On successful completion of the courses listed below and the defense of the research, the student will be required to pass a comprehensive examination.

Prescribed Courses

016.736 Medical Radiation Physics (3 credits)

The relevant physics of the production and interaction of radiation beams used in both diagnostic and therapeutic medicine will be covered. Such beams include X- and gamma-rays, particle beams, visible and I.R. radiaiton, microwaves and ultrasound.

Prerequisite: 016.456 or consent of instructor.

 

016.737 RadioTherapy Physics (3 credits)

The calculations and measurements necessary to determine the radiation dose distribution in patients receiving radiotherapy will be presented. New treatment modalities, e.g. pion therapy and hyperthermia will be discussed.

Prerequisite: 016.451, 016.456 or consent of instructor.

 

016.738 Radiation Biology (3 credits)

The interaction of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation with living systems. The relevance to Radiotherapy. Nuclear medicine and diagnostic radiology.

Prerequisite: 016.102/016.103 (or the former 016.121) or consent of instructor.

 

016.739 Health Physics & Radiation Protection (3 credits)

Ionizing radiation including X-rays, gamma-rays, neutrons, alpha-, beta-, and heavy ion-particle sources, bioeffects, and protection principles are covered. Non-ionizing radiation, including laser light, radio-frequency waves, ultraviolet and infrared light, and ultrasound, sources, bioeffects and exposure protection guidelines are studied.

Prerequisite: 016.736 and 016.738 or consent of instructor.

 

016.740 Medical Imaging (3 credits)

Fundamental principles of image formation, analysis of the characteristics of medical images, parametric description of image quality; application to transmission of radiography.

Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

 

016.741 Diagnostic Methods (3 credits)

Medical imaging in terms of signal acquisition, data processing, image reconstruction, special techniques, applications in fluroscopy, computed tomography, radionuclide imaging, ultrasound, nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.

Prerequisite: 016.740

 

016.757 Nuclear Physics 3 (3 credits)

Hadron and lepton scattering, the nucleon-nucleon interaction, nuclear structure, nuclear shell model, nuclear excitations and decay, the quark model. Not to be held with the former 016.705.

Prerequisite: 016.451 or consent of instructor.


016.760 Applied Electromagnetism (3 credits)

Wave guides and resonant cavities, charged particle collision theory, Bremsstrahlung, radiation of moving charged particles, multipole radiation. Not to be held with the former 016.715.

Prerequisite: 016.759 or consent of instructor.

 

016.746 Methods in Medical and Health Physics 1 Medical Imaging & Radiation Protection
(3 credits)

This practical course is designed to give students hands-on experience with equipment, clinical techniques and methods of analysis in medical imaging and health physics. Topics such as: dosimetry of unsealed sources, radiation shielding design and surveys, meter calibration, decontamination and plume dispersal, CT, Ultrasound, X-ray and Nuclear Medicine imaging techniques, mammography and quality assurance in medical and health physics will be covered. Students are required to take both 016.746 and 016.747 which will be offered in consecutive years.

Prerequisite: Only students accepted into the Medical Physics Program will be allowed to register for this course.

 

016.747 Methods in Medical and Health Physics 2 Radiotherapy and Radiation Biology
(3 credits)

This practical course is designed to give students hands-on experience with equipment, clinical techniques and methods of analysis in radiotherapy and radiation biology. Topics such as: error analysis and data reduction, dosimetry of ionizing radiation, radiotherapy, treatment planning, calibration, HDR brachytherapy, microdosimetry and quality assurance in medical physics, will be covered.Students are required to take both 016.746 and 016.747 which will be offered in consecutive years.

Prerequisite: Only students accepted into the Medical Physics Program will be allowed to register for this course.

Supplementary Courses

016.425 Computational Physics (3 credits)

Application of numerical methods and programming skils to model a variety of physics problems on a computer. Topics include differential equations, boundary value and eigenvalue problems, special functions, and Monte Carlo methods, with examples from classical, quantum, statistical and medical physics. (U of M)

Prerequisite: none

 

016.759 Electromagnetic Theory (3 credits)

Maxwells equations, electromagnetic potentials, guage conditions, conservation laws, Green function methods, diffraction theory, simple radiating systems, Lagrangian derivarion of Maxwells equations and the covariant structure of electromagnetism. (U of M)

Prerequisite: none

 

016.744 Advanced Topics (3 credits)
- selected topics appropriate to the student's needs

Selected topics in current diagnostic radiology will be discussed in terms of basic physics principles and diagnostic equipment limitations.

Prerequisite: 016.740 (co-requisite) or consent of instructor

 

022.132 Anatomy of the Human Body (3 credits)

Microanatomy and gross anatomy, including changes occuring from conception to old age. (U of M)

Prerequisite: none

 

022.133 Physiology of the Human Body (3 credits)

Functions of all systems discussed with homeostatic regulatory mechanisms as foundation themes. (U of M)

Prerequisite: none

Please review the Supplementary Regulations for the MSc Medical & Health Physics Program which are posted on the U of M Physics & Astronomy web site.

MSc PhD Research Programs

M.Sc. (Medical/Health Physics)
Research Based Program

The Masters program with thesis consists of two or three courses from the 700 series offered by the department or from another department offering courses suitable for the candidate's program. In special cases, courses may be drawn from the 400 series. The program of study extends through a minimum period of twelve months. Frequently two summers of research work plus one winter of research and coursework are required to complete the program.

Please review Supplementary Regulations for the MSc Program in Physics which are posted on the U of M Physics & Astronomy web site.

Ph.D. (Medical/Health Physics)

In addition to the admission requirements of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, the normal procedure to be a candidate for a Ph.D. degree is to complete an M.Sc. degree first. However, students with an honours degree from the University of Manitoba or equivalent may be accepted directly into the Ph.D. program.

Please review the Supplementary Regulations for the PhD Program which are posted on the U of M Physics & Astronomy web site.

Facilities

The Division of Medical Physics, which has 16 physicists and close to fifty staff, residents and students, provides medical physics support to the Provincial Radiotherapy and Imaging programs and is directly responsible for the operation of the province wide Radiation Protection Program.

Researchers and students have access to our well-equipped electronics and ISO 9001 accredited machine shops as well as to state of the art clinical equipment at both CancerCare Manitoba and the two teaching hospitals in Winnipeg. The Division is well equipped with networked UNIX/Linux/VMS/PC computer workstations and servers and is linked to the university network via a 155 MBps ATM link.

The division is responsible for the commissioning, operation and maintenance of seven megavoltage treatment units (ranging in energy from 1.25 MeV to 23 MV), a 100-250 kV orthovoltage unit, a conventional simulator, a CT/Virtual simulator and a remote afterloading 370 GBq High Dose Rate (HDR) treatment unit. Six treatment planning systems, employing state of the art convolution and superposition algorithms to model the radiation transport through the 3D electron density map of the patient, are used to produce dose distributions which optimally conform to the treatment volume.

Physics staff also assist with the training of Radiation Therapists, Radiation Oncology and Radiology residents. Prostate Brachytherapy, Total Body Irradiation and Radiosurgery (using a state of the art GammaKnife) are also supported by the Radiation Therapy Physics Service. The Imaging Physics staff provide professional and technical support for equipment purchase, installation, accreditation and the ongoing evaluation of image quality in diagnostic imaging departments (general radiology, mammography, nuclear medicine, ultrasound and MRI) throughout the Province of Manitoba.

The Radiation Protection Service is a resource to the Province on matters of radiological health and is responsible for the regulation and verification of satisfactory performance of all medical x-ray units in Manitoba. They conduct radiation safety training and are also responsible for non-ionising radiation protection for therapeutic ultrasound, microwave, ultraviolet, lasers and radio frequency equipment used in medical, paramedical and public facilities.

Research is carried out in collaboration with colleagues in the Departments of Physics, Engineering, Radiology and Oncology and includes: - the study and development of novel brachytherapy and breast imaging and dosimetry techniques, the study of radiation transport using the Monte Carlo method, digital image processing, treatment optimization using neural networks, 3D ultrasound and the use of virtual reality to provide an immersive environment for radiotherapy treatment planning, treatment and teaching purposes.

How to Apply

Requirements:

Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0. Successful applicants however will probably have a GPA of 3.5 or greater. Ph.D. students must pass the GRE within a year of registering.

Application:

Candidates who wish to enter the Medical Physics Graduate Program must submit their application fees, transcripts, etc. to:

Graduate Studies Officer
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Manitoba
301 Allen Building
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2

Phone (204) 474-9817
e-mail: physics@umanitoba.ca
Web site: www.physics.umanitoba.ca

If you indicate on your application that you wish to specialize in Medical Physics, your application will be forwarded to the Division of Medical Physics at CancerCare Manitoba for further consideration.

Funding

Studentships and top-up funds are available through the Medical Physics Graduate Program for new students and holders of NSERC studentships.

Students are expected to secure studentships from granting agencies such as:

About Faculty

  • Jorge Alpuche, Ph.D., MCCPM
  • Jeff Bews, Ph.D., FCCPM
  • Idris Elbakri, Ph.D., MCCPM
  • Ingvar Fife, Ph.D.
  • Harry Ingleby, Ph.D., MCCPM
  • Boyd McCurdy, Ph.D., FCCPM
  • Stephen Pistorius, Ph.D., P. Phys.
  • Daniel Rickey, Ph.D., MCCPM
  • Ryan Rivest, Ph.D., MCCPM
  • Lawrence Ryner, Ph.D.
  • Eric VanUytven, Ph.D., MCCPM
  • Sankaranarayanan Venkataraman, Ph.D., MCCPM

Program Statistics

University of Manitoba Medical Physics Graduate Program Statistics

View statistics for M.Sc. and Ph.D. degree programs for 2010 - 2017.