Medical physics plays an essential role in modern medicine. This is particularly evident in cancer care where medical physicists are involved in radiotherapy treatment planning and quality assurance as well as in imaging and radiation protection. Due to the large variety of tasks and interests, medical physics is often subdivided into specialties such as radiology, nuclear medicine and radiation oncology medical physics. However, even within their specialty, the role of radiation oncology medical physicists (ROMPs) is diverse and varies between different societies. Therefore, a questionnaire was sent to leading medical physicists in most countries/areas in the Asia/Pacific region to determine the education, role and status of medical physicists. ROMPs spent most of their time working in radiotherapy treatment planning (average 17 hours per week); however radiation protection and engineering tasks were also common. Typically, only physicists in large centres are involved in research and teaching. Most respondents thought that the workload of physicists was high, with more than 500 patients per year per physicist, less than one ROMP per two oncologists being the norm, and on average, one megavoltage treatment unit per medical physicist. There was also a clear indication of increased complexity of technology in the region with many countries/areas reporting to have installed helical tomotherapy, IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy), IGRT (Image Guided Radiation Therapy), Gamma-knife and Cyber-knife units. This and the continued workload from brachytherapy will require growing expertise and numbers in the medical physics workforce. Addressing these needs will be an important challenge for the future.
- Medical physics