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What You Should Know About Medical Physicists and Their Services


What is a medical physicist?

A medical physicist is a person who applies the principles of physics to direct, contain, and control radiation used for medical purposes. Some of the responsibilities of medical physicists are: protecting patients and others from unsafe and unnecessary exposure to radiation; obtaining high quality images; and delivering the proper dose of radiation to the specified area.


Who may use the title "professional medical physicist" and practice medical physics in New York State?

Only licensed medical physicists who are currently registered may use the title licensed medical physicist. Only licensed medical physicists who are currently registered may practice medical physics in New York State.


What services do medical physicists offer?

Some of the functions of a medical physicist are: calculating patient dosage; analyzing and interpreting measurements associated with inspecting, testing, and calibrating equipment; overseeing proper disposal of radioactive waste, and designing the shielding needed around radiation sources.


Can any medical physicist provide any of these services?

There are four specialty areas of medical physics in the law and the licenses are specific to one area. A medical physicist can only practice medical physics in a specialty if they have the license in that specialty. A medical physicist may be licensed in more than one specialty and some are licensed in all four.


What are the four specialty areas of medical physics?

The specialty areas are:

  • Diagnostic radiological physics - which is the branch of medical physics relating to the diagnostic application of radiation, the analysis and interpretation of image quality, performance measurements and calibration of equipment associated with the production and use of such radiation, the analysis and interpretation of measurements associated with the production and use of such radiation, the analysis and interpretation of measurements associated with patient doses and exposures, and the radiation safety aspects associated with the production and use of such radiation.
  • Medical health physics - which is the branch of medical physics pertaining to the radiation safety aspects of the use of radiation for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, and the use of equipment to perform appropriate radiation measurements.
  • Medical nuclear physics - which is the branch of medical physics pertaining to the therapeutic and diagnostic application of radionuclides, excluding those used in sealed sources for therapeutic purposes, the analysis and interpretation of performance measurements associated with radiation imaging equipment and performance oversight of radionuclide calibration equipment associated with the use and production of radioclides, the analysis and interpretation of measurements and calculations associated with patient organ doses, and the radiation safety aspects associated with the production and use of such radionuclides.
  • Therapeutic radiological physics or radiation oncology physics - which is the branch of medical physics relating to the therapeutic application of radiation, the analysis and interpretation of radiation equipment performance measurements and the calibration of equipment associated with the production and use of such radiation, the analysis and interpretation of measurements associated with patient doses, and the radiation safety aspects associated with the production and use of such radiation.

What credentials do New York licensed medical physics have?

Most licensed medical physicists have a master's or doctoral degree in medical physics, physics, another physical science, mathematics, or engineering. Licensed medical physicists without a master's or higher degree have at least 15 years of experience in each specialty area in which they are licensed. All have study or experience or both in radiation protection, radiation biology, dosimetry, and instrumentation. And, all have experience in each specialty area in which they are licensed. You may verify an individual's license and registration.

Last Updated: June 17, 2009