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A Pioneering Medical Physicist


Medical physics is a very new field of study in Romania--the first departments were only established in Romanian universities in 1995. So, as one of the first generation of graduates, I am the first Romanian medical physicist to have found a job in this field. Although physicists worked in Romanian hospitals before, they were not trained in medical physics.

I work at the "Sf. Sipridon" University Hospital in Iasi. In the course of my job I have been very impressed with the many practical applications for the treatment of patients that are possible in this field, and also very interested in solving the problems which occur. Naturally, therefore, I was keen to continue my studies, and have embarked upon a part-time PhD in medical physics at the University of Bucharest.

Although many hospitals in Romania have been equipped with new radiological devices by the Romanian Ministry of Health, these are seldom fully functional. Part of the problem is a lack of money--needed to buy parts and to pay specialists to repair the machines. Often, essential accessories such as dosimeters and radiological films were not supplied along with the devices or are insufficient to provide a high level of treatment. But there is also a lack of people with the necessary training to use these machines, so that even if they were functional they could not be used to their full capacity every day. Besides that, the number of devices is still small compared to the number of patients. Many clinics are still using old devices and have few scientists who are trained in relevant specialties.

This lack of trained professionals in my own country is one reason why I felt it would be useful to undertake part of my PhD training in a country with a strong tradition and very well organized system in medical physics. It is difficult to develop a successful scientific career if, because of a lack of experience, you don't have the freedom to choose to practice different methods and skills.

I applied to the Marie Curie Training Site for Medical Physics at the Eberhard-Karls-University of Tübingen and was accepted as its first Marie Curie Fellow. I was delighted to be able to make direct contact with such a high-quality research group. This training site was appealing because in Germany young scientists are genuinely appreciated and encouraged at the start of their career. Another advantage of becoming a Marie Curie Fellow is that it is well paid!

Compared to the situation at home, where there are few scientists in this field, it has been a wonderful experience to work with a group of supportive colleagues. Because they are all so experienced in this field of work, they have been able to help me with any problems that have arisen with my research. In addition, working with a supervisor with an established international reputation has been a great opportunity to make contact with top names and world-leading institutions, which is an essential element of my future career in this field.

The Tübingen medical physics department specialises in the development of new methods for application in conformal radiation therapy of cancer patients. It is also home to an innovative intensity-modulated radiation therapy project, called HYPERION. It is the only European medical physics department focussed on cancer treatment which is involved in the Marie Curie training programme.

The Tübingen training programme is designed to attract fellows from European countries interested in acquiring basic competency and experience in the fundamental principles of radiotherapy. Integration of theoretical courses, practical training, and collaboration with worldwide leading institutions provides a comprehensive training for medical physicists in biomedical sciences, especially in the field of radiotherapy.

There is both a lack of medical physics training sites and an increasing need for trained medical physicists in Europe. The impact of research training such as that provided at Tübingen can be seen in several ways: the dissemination of high-level medical physics expertise to other hospitals and research sites to the benefit of cancer patients; knowledge exchange with other institutions; and the seed effect resulting in the creation of medical physics education and training programmes where these are not yet available.

My training abroad has been very important to me in that it has allowed me to gain a good professional experience which will be very helpful in my future career. I am looking forward to publishing my results in a scientific journal.

Because I belong to the first generation of medical physicists of Romania, the opportunity to have spent time at a Marie Curie training site has been invaluable in terms of improving my technical and professional knowledge. It was a unique opportunity to be able to work in such a high-level professional group, for which I am really grateful.