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Hong Kong’s only MSc in Medical Physics programme nurtures new talent and supports better healthcare

1 - a076fbed57e433b20ca8b68c41d2473Driven by groundbreaking developments and the integration of cutting-edge technologies, the healthcare landscape is evolving fast. From X-rays and Ultrasound to Computed Tomography, Nuclear Medicine, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and Radiation Therapy, the latest innovations may seem like they’ve come straight out of a science fiction movie. However, the truth is that many of the life-saving breakthroughs we depend on today would not be possible without the invaluable contributions of real-life medical physicists.

2 - Console screenshot_IVISMedical Physics is a fascinating field that combines the principles of physics with the practice of medicine. By applying physics concepts and techniques, medical physicists are vital to the prevention, diagnosis, and management of various diseases. Their expertise is crucial in advancing medical research and optimising healthcare activities.

In addition to their vital role in medicine, medical physicists play a major part in developing the sophisticated instruments and techniques used in modern healthcare. Collaborating closely with doctors, they contribute to the assessment and treatment of illnesses. They also play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of patients and other healthcare professionals by mitigating potentially fatal risks such as radiation exposure.

Pushing the boundaries

Today, medical physics is pushing the boundaries in key areas, especially in the field of oncology. For example, although ionising radiation is commonly employed to treat a wide variety of cancers, researchers at Europe’s CERN facility are pioneering the use of particle accelerators to target previously untreatable tumours, expanding the possibilities for cancer patients worldwide.

The role of medical imaging, which was until recently limited mainly to the diagnosis of disease, is also expanding rapidly into verifying and, when necessary, adjusting treatments based on the results. This promises to dramatically improve the effectiveness of radiation therapy.

Cities like Hong Kong, with ageing populations and increasing numbers of cancer patients, need a reliable pipeline of qualified medical physics professionals to support current requirements, and meet future goals.

Dealing with demand

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has been addressing this demand for decades at the Bachelor of Science level. In 2020 we launched the first Master of Science in Medical Physics (MScMP) programme in Hong Kong. Supported by Hong Kong Institution of Physicists in Medicine (HKIPM) and Hong Kong Association of Medical Physics (HKAMP), it remains the only MScMP programme in the HKSAR.

Taught by an interdisciplinary team, the programme strikes a balance between theory and practice by incorporating modules in health technology and informatics, applied physics, applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, and computing.

3 - Cai jing 2The programme also includes a guest lecture series by distinguished local and international medical physicists, to inspire and promote interactions between the MScMP students and practicing medical physicists. The goal is to broaden students’ perspectives in medical science and technology development, and equip them with professional knowledge, relevant skillsets as well as research capabilities.

Although the enrolled students already have bachelor’s degrees in specific disciplines, the MScMP programme enables them to acquire new professional knowledge in the areas of health technology, physics, and engineering, and create synergy between different subjects. Ultimately, it provides a solid basis on which they can develop a successful and rewarding career.4 - DSC_0478

The MScMP programme was recently (May 2024) accredited by the International Organization for Medial Physics (IOMP), which assesses the quality of medical physics postgraduate degree programmes and CPD courses and keeps the medical physics community informed.

“In the past, no dedicated masters programme was offered by local institutions, and people had little understanding of the role of the Medical Physicist. We hope that by launching this programme, and achieving internationally recognised IOMP Accreditation, we can increase understanding of the importance of medical physics and open up new employment and research opportunities in the healthcare field,” said Prof. Yip Shea-ping, Head of Department of Health Technology and Informatics.

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