Medical physics: meet the trainees

Fiona Wall, Scientist Training Programme

My name is Fiona Wall and I am one of the medical physics trainees at UHS. I joined the team in September 2012 and my feet have barely touched the ground since! I am on the medical physics stream of the Scientist Training Programme, working full time at the hospital and also studying part time for a Medical Physics MSc at the University of Liverpool. The programme lasts three years, with the first year devoted to rotations and the second and third to specialisation. My first rotation was in the radiotherapy department, where I spent three great months. From day one I was observing radiotherapy treatments on Southampton’s treatment machines, helping out with linear accelerator quality assurance checks and getting involved with treatment planning. Everyone in the department was really helpful and keen to explain things - no matter how many silly questions I asked!

After my first rotation I moved on to the radiation protection group. Straight away I was involved with the investigation of a radiation incident and was soon designing the shielding for a new CT scanner. It is very rewarding to feel useful and to see your work contributing to the work of the department and the hospital. My third rotation was imaging with ionising radiation. I observed a variety of imaging modalities including planar x-ray, fluoroscopy, CT, SPECT/CT and PET/CT (at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth). I was able to operate a huge range of equipment and spent a great week in radiopharmacy learning how to prepare radiopharmaceuticals. Finally, in my imaging with non-ionising radiation rotation I was able to design (and test!) my own contrast phantom and operate a class 4 laser. I had lots of hands on ultrasound experience both with phantoms and on myself, meaning I now have a solid understanding of the underlying physics and operational principles. It is fascinating to think how different all my rotations were, even though they all covered areas of medical physics. I am just starting the specialism phase of my training which is in imaging with ionising radiation (nuclear medicine and diagnostic radiology). Hopefully over the next 18 months I will get lots of hands on experience and be able to contribute to the nuclear medicine and radiation safety departments.

Southampton has worked hard to make the transition between the old IPEM training scheme and the new Scientist Training Programme run as smoothly as possible for everyone concerned, and I don’t regret for a minute my decision to go into this area. I am thoroughly enjoying my time here with all the variety involved and am really looking forward to my specialism phase. What has impressed me above all is how everyone is amazingly supportive, and very keen to help me learn. This is such an exciting area and time to be working in medical physics and hope I can really ‘make a difference’ in the future.

Fiona Wall, 21 February 2014