Friday, April 25, 2008

AAPM Celebrates Its Golden Anniversary

The quotes below are taken from the American Association of Physicists in Medicine Golden Anniversary website.

"Many of the greatest inventions in modern medicine were developed by physicists who imported technologies such as X rays, nuclear magnetic resonance, ultrasound, particle accelerators and radioisotope tagging and detection techniques into the medical domain. There they became magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) scanning, nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography (PET) scanning, and various radiotherapy treatment methods. These contributions have revolutionized medical techniques for imaging the human body and treating disease.

Now, in 2008, the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM), the premier scientific and professional association of medical physicists, is celebrating its 50th anniversary and is calling attention to the field of medical physics achievements.

In the coming year, the AAPM will be calling attention to the many ways in which medical physics has revolutionized medicine. A few highlights include:


This year, the AAPM journal, Medical Physics, will celebrate the 50th anniversary with a year-long celebration. Every issue published in 2008 will have an article devoted to history and reviews of special topics intended to recognize this anniversary, and will carry the AAPM anniversary logo.

The AAPM is a scientific, educational, and professional nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the application of physics to the diagnosis and treatment of human disease. The association encourages innovative research and development, helps disseminate scientific and technical information, fosters the education and professional development of medical physicists, and promotes the highest quality medical services for patients. In 2008, AAPM will celebrate its 50th year of serving patients, physicians, and physicists."

The 4th Edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology provides an introduction to many of these important topics in Medical Physics.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Anyone who teaches college students or has teenage children knows that the first place they go to for information is wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. I, too, find wikipedia useful. It is extraodinarily simple to search for information, and surprisingly accurate. But sometimes, for technical information, you may prefer a more authoritative source. Now you have it: Scholarpedia. Like wikipedia, Scholarpedia is online, free, and simple to use. The main difference with wikipedia is that in Scholarpedia articles are authored and maintained by experts and undergo peer review. Anyone can edit scholarpedia, but all changes must be approved by the "curator" (often the author) of the article, who is responsible for its content.

Scholarpedia is just getting started, so it is very incomplete. But one of the first categories added to Scholarpedia was Cardiac Dynamics. Dr. Vadim Biktashev of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Liverpool is the editor for this category, and has organized many fascinating articles related to this topic. Anyone studying Chapters 7-10 of the 4th edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology will find these Scholarpedia articles on cardiac dynamics to be a convenient online source of additional information. I am the author of an article on the Bidomain Model that describs the electrical properties of cardiac tissue (introduced on page 191 in our book). Other particularly good articles are Cardiac Arrhythmia by Flavio Fenton, Elizabeth Cherry and Leon Glass, Models of Cardiac Cell by Fenton and Cherry, and FitzHugh-Nagumo Model by Eugene Izhikevich and Richard FitzHugh. Another category of interest to readers of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology is Models of Neurons, with an article about Neuronal Cable Theory and a planned article about the Hodgkin-Huxley Model. Also, there are excellent articles on Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, and many more topics. Take advantage of this excellent source to find more in-depth information on specific topics than Russ Hobbie and I could fit into our book.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Even More on "Medical Physics: the Perfect Intermediate Level Physics Class"

In 2001, Nelson Christensen of Carleton College published an article in the European Journal of Physics (vol. 22, pp. 421-427) titled "Medical Physics: the Perfect Intermediate Level Physics Class." (See the Jan 25, 2008 and the Oct 5, 2007 blog entries for my earlier discussions about this paper) The primary textbook for the class was the 3rd Edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology. Below is the introduction to his paper:

"Physics is changing the way medicine is practised. While a doctor will still use a stethoscope, a diagnosis now often requires devices that make use of sophisticated physics and engineering. The importance of physics in medicine may be best displayed when a physicist needs to visit their doctor: we seem to be the only people who can intimidate doctors as we are the ones who actually know how their devices work. As a consequence of the technological evolution of the discipline, medical schools are admitting more and more students who major in physics or engineering.

Almost all major engineering schools will now have a department of biomedical engineering. There are numerous opportunities in academia in medical physics and biomedical engineering. Students interested in becoming an academic physicist now have a fast-growing field to aim for, a field that is providing more and more opportunities. The industrial sector in biomedical engineering is also advancing and evolving quickly. Physicists and engineers can find numerous and lucrative opportunities with companies.

With all of these opportunities it is no wonder that undergraduates are very interested in knowing more about medical physics. Partly due to student interest, and partly due to the faculty’s desire to provide interesting physics classes, Carleton College offered an intermediate level course in medical physics. This was a course open to students who have completed the first year physics courses. We deliberately designed the medical physics course so that the curriculum would be advanced, thereby negating the possibility that this course alone would satisfy a pre-medical school requirement. At this level we then attracted physics majors and pre-medical students who had a genuine interest in studying more physics."

Friday, April 4, 2008

Medical Physcis in the News

Teachers and students using the 4th edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology might want a simple, enjoyable way to learn about the latest breakthroughs in Medical Physics. I suggest viewing some of the stories and videos at the website Medical Physics in the News. This site, sponsored by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, contains 90 second videos about recent medical physics developments. The videos are produced by Discoveries and Breakthroughs Inside Science, a syndicated science and engineering news service for local television newscasts.

For instance, a video from December 2007 titled "Baby Thinking" describes a technique using diffuse optical tomography to study brain activity in children. Diffuse optical tomography is based on the diffusion of infrared and visible light through biological tissue, a topic examined in Chapter 14 of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology. The November 2007 video titled "Safer MRI Scans for Heart Patients" explains how magnetic resonance images can be obtained safely in patients with implanted pacemakers and defibrillators. Pacemakers are described in Chapter 7, and MRI is explained in Chapter 18, of our textbook.

For those teachers who spend a lecture on the technical aspects of, say, optical diffusion may want to end the class with a 90 video describing a potential application to modern medicine. It could help make the the basic science learned from Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology more relevant to the students.