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Roles and responsibilities

The medical physicist is an expert in physics and instrumentation with a good knowledge of the relevant biology, and provides technical support for therapeutic and diagnostic medical procedures and treatments as a member of a team of health care professionals.

The roles and responsibilities for clinical medical physicists vary depending upon the sub-specialty in which they are employed. However, the tasks are mainly related to the safety and performance of related equipment and computer systems. Sub-specialties include Radiotherapy, Diagnostic Imaging, and Nuclear Medicine. Medical physicist's roles often also include radiation protection responsibilities.

The IAEA has undertaken several initiatives to strengthen the field of medical physics through publications of guidelines and factsheets, organization of seminars for health care professionals and decision makers and collaboration with professional societies. A large part of this initiative is to define internationally endorsed roles and responsibilities of a Medical Physicist, and standard requirements for their education and training, including clinical preparation. A report has been published, as “Human Health Series No. 25”, to provide specific guidelines on the role and responsibilities of clinically qualified medical physicists and includes the basic requirements for their education and clinical training. The IAEA publication has been endorsed by the by the International Organization for Medical Physics and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine. A recorded PowerPoint presentation of the first part of the Human Health Series No.25 dealing with the roles and responsibilities of clinically qualified medical physicists is available under this link.

The IAEA in collaboration with IOMP has also developed concise fact sheets describing in simple words what a medical physicist is and his/her role in the clinic: Medical Physics Safety and Accuracy in Radiation Medical Procedures, also available in Russian and Spanish and Medical Physics Ensuring Safety and Accuracy in Radiation Medical Procedures, also available in French, Russian, and Spanish.

To date, several organizations have published guidelines and prepared presentations and videos that outline the specific responsibilities of a clinical medical physicist. The relevant links are given under “Professional Societies Guidelines and related presentations”.