Lifehouse celebrated International Day of Medical Physics on November 7th. The day marks Marie Sklodowska-Curie’s birth in Poland, 1867. Marie was famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity.
Chris O’Brien Lifehouse’s medical physics department ensures the accuracy of radiation treatment given to patients by making sure that the equipment gives the right dose to the right patient at the right time in the right location. The staff complete daily, weekly, monthly and annual checks on all the linear accelerators so that all equipment, protocols and processes comply with the various standards. They also commission new equipment and techniques by testing these under simple and then more complex conditions.
The team also checks all treatment plans as an independent verification of accuracy. They check dose measurements on patients and provide technical advice to doctors in complex situations. In these cases, the team applies a real patient’s plan to a ‘phantom’ or virtual patient and measures the dose with different devices to confirm that the computer’s prediction matches what the machine delivers.
Medical physicists treat a wide range of patients, from skin cancer to total body irradiation, lung, liver and prostate patients and can apply more complex techniques including the new Elements program for treating multiple metastes, and whole body irradiation for brachytherapy patients and bone marrow transplant patients.
The theme for International Day of Medical Physics this year was ‘Education in medical physics: the key to success’. Robin Hill, Director of Medical Physics says the department is actively involved with education and training of physics registrars, the radiation oncology registrars and other staff, including teaching in the medical physics program at the University of Sydney.
“I think to be a good clinical medical physicist you need to have some clinical skills, you need to be good at computer systems, and you need to be good at data analysis and statistics. You have to be a problem solver,” says Robin.
“We have done a lot of work working towards the radiation oncology tripartite standards, and last year we received Novartis circle accreditation. It gave us an internationally recognised standard for our stereotactic radio surgery program. We were the first in NSW to get that,” says Robin.