Many Nobel Prizes are awaiting good research to understand and explain the many mysteries of our bodies, such as the basic mechanism of memory or imagination.
The growth of technology is such that it is not possible today for a nuclear physicist to switch into medical physics without training. The field is now much more technical. More training is needed to do the job.
I have devoted much time and energy to helping medical physics in developing countries.
When I entered medical physics in 1958 there were fewer than 100 in the U.S. and I could see many opportunities to apply my knowledge of nuclear physics.
Medical physicists work in cooperation with doctors. A few medical physicists devote their time to research and teaching. A few get involved with administrative duties.
I started the nuclear medicine laboratory at UW Hospitals in 1959 and trained radiology residents in the field. It was 1965 before they found a trained MD (doctor) to take over my role.
If someone is interested in medicine and also in physics and they like working with people and communicate well with others, I would strongly encourage them.
Too many radiologists still believe there is a risk from a chest x-ray. Few radiologists can explain radiation to the patient in words the patient can understand.
We developed simple test tools to optimize imaging parameters. No company was interested in our idea.
Nuclear physics is interesting but it is unlikely to help society.
In 1970 I realized that there was negligible risk from x-rays but many radiographs had poor image quality so that the risk from a false negative was significant.
Most medical physicists work in the physics of radiation oncology making sure that the desired dose is given to the cancer and the dose to normal tissues are minimized.
When I entered the field in July 1958 I believed what they told me about radiation risks. I spent much effort reducing the dose to patients in radiology.
I am now almost certain that we need more radiation for better health.
I was the Chair of the first department of medical physics in a medical school in the U.S.
Medical physics is an applied area of physics.
I would not encourage everyone to take up this profession. Not everyone is suited for any particular field.
I found collaborating with congenial doctors about problems that physicists could help solve was very satisfying. I also like educating anybody who would listen!
My main frustration is the fear of cancer from low dose radiation, even by radiologists.
I have the satisfaction of knowing I did something useful for society.
In some cases radiation reduces the incidence of cancer.
I am sure that I have been much more useful to society as a medical physicist.
It is likely that we need more radiation to improve our longevity.