October 21, 2020

We are creating some awesome events for you. Kindly bear with us.

We are creating some awesome events for you. Kindly bear with us.

PolyU launches masters programme to propel health tech

As medical technology advances, breakthroughs in diagnosing and treating various critical illnesses are achieved, and as the design of patient treatment plans becomes more precise and personalised, healthcare practitioners are expected to keep abreast of the latest developments to master the most sophisticated technologies.

In a cancer treatment team, members are specialised in their respective fields, yet they work together seamlessly to devise the most effective treatment for patients. One of the lesser-known of the specialists in such a team, the Medical Physicist, is responsible for formulating treatment plans, as well as monitoring and maintaining radiation equipment used to ensure the precise, effective and safe delivery of treatment.

Medical Physicists specialise in radiation treatment technology, with their expertise spanning from diagnostic imaging to radiotherapy, and they are “strong backers” of the cancer treatment team. However, a higher degree programme in Medical Physics was previously not available in Hong Kong or nearby regions.

To meet the future demand for Medical Physicists, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has, this academic year, launched the first Master of Science in Medical Physics (MScMP) programme in Hong Kong. The curriculum is designed to cover various aspects including health technology, physics and engineering, offering interdisciplinary training for professionals who are keen to pursue a career in the field of medical physics.

High demand for cancer treatment Creating local training opportunities

The ageing population in Hong Kong poses immense challenges to the local healthcare system and the rising demand for cancer treatment is one of them. To maintain the quality of healthcare services, it is essential to have more qualified professionals in the workforce.

There are about 150 Medical Physicists currently practising in Hong Kong, serving at the Hospital Authority as well as in public and private hospitals. They possess both physics and medical expertise, playing a vital role in diagnosis and the formulation of treatment plans, as well as ensuring proper operation of equipment to achieve the treatment goal.

The Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences of PolyU stated with the advancement of technology and patients’ growing expectation of higher service standards, there is a need for the additional workforce. Besides those working on the frontline, experts in innovative health technology at the back-end to achieve effective treatment are needed. Thus the new masters programme in medical physics will both prepare students for a career in medical physics and help to promote the development of the field itself.

Leveraging interdisciplinary expertise Striving for the well-being of patients

Medical Physics is an interdisciplinary field that crosses the boundaries of medicine, physics and engineering. The Head of the Department of Health Technology and Informatics of PolyU pointed out that the demand for radiotherapy is ever-increasing.

In Hong Kong, cancer has long been the leading cause of death and radiotherapy plays a crucial role in cancer treatment. In the past, no dedicated master programme was offered by local institutions, and people have little understanding of the role of the Medical Physicist.

It is hoped that through this new programme, more people will understand the importance of medical physics and hence help to open new research areas in this field.

The programme leader and Professor of the Department of Health Technology and Informatics, added that the programme is taught by an interdisciplinary team, striking a good balance between theory and practice by incorporating modules in health technology and informatics, applied physics, applied mathematics, biomedical engineering and computing. The aim is to broaden students’ perspectives in medical science and technology development and equip them with professional knowledge, relevant skillsets as well as research capabilities.

The Vice President (Education) of PolyU noted that the university is considering switching some of its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes from single-disciplinary to interdisciplinary, to better address societal needs. This new MScMP programme is a good example of PolyU’s interdisciplinary efforts. Thus, while students enrolled on this programme already have a bachelor’s degree in a specific discipline, they can acquire new professional knowledge in the areas of health technology, physics and engineering, and create a synergy of different subjects. This will provide a solid basis upon which they can develop a career in the field of healthcare.

Contribute to the community with medical physics knowledge

According to the President of the Hong Kong Association of Medical Physics half of the practising Medical Physicists in Hong Kong obtained a relevant higher degree overseas, while the other half pursued their master degree in physics or engineering in Hong Kong, and received “on-the-job” training while working as a Resident Physicist.

He is encouraged to see the launch of the first MScMP programme at PolyU, noting that Medical Physicists play a pivotal role in a medical team, although they spend most of their time behind the scenes, they are irreplaceable in the planning and implementation of cancer treatment. They are responsible for formulating treatment plans, calculating radiation doses, as well as testing and monitoring equipment to ensure that all arrangements are perfectly executed.

Currently, the minimum entry requirement for Resident Physicists in Hong Kong is a master degree in medical physics, physics or engineering-related subjects. While working as a Resident Physicist in a hospital, one can start taking a three-part professional examination. Generally speaking, it takes about four to five years to attain certified recognition as a Medical Physicist.