Name: Stewart Gaede
Born: Saint John, NB
Profession: Physics - Radiation Oncology
For cancer patients, treatment can involve drug therapy, surgery or radiation. Radiation treatment has to be planned very carefully so that the radiation beams hit the tumor accurately and are delivered to the patient in the right amount. It's the role of a medical physicist to make sure these treatments are planned properly and to develop improved technologies to better treat patients. Stewart Gaede talks to us about what it's like to be a Medical Physicist.
What is a Medical Physicist?
Medical physicists are health care professionals with specialized training in the medical applications of physics. Their work often involves the use of x-rays, ultrasound, magnetic and electric fields, infra-red and ultraviolet light, heat and lasers in diagnosis and therapy. Most medical physicists work in hospital diagnostic imaging departments, cancer treatment facilities, or hospital-based research establishments. Others work in universities, government, and industry.
What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me involves clinical service, including quality assurance of radiation treatment plans for cancer patients, and research and development of new technologies in radiation delivery to cancer patients.
Did you always want to be a Medical Physicist?
Honestly, I didn't know what a Medical Physicist was until I started my Ph.D. studies in Applied Mathematics.
What courses in high school prepared you for this field?
Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, and Chemistry. Although I didn't take Biology in high school, it would definitely be beneficial to this field.
Where did you go to university/college and how did you decide where to go?
I started my university education in my home town at the University College of Cape Breton in Sydney, Nova Scotia. At the time I was applying, I really didn't have a career goal. I chose engineering because it offered the most courses that could be transferable to any Science related program at any university. It was really a cost-saving venture. After 2 years, I transferred to the University of Guelph and completed my B.Sc in Mathematics and M.Sc. in Applied Mathematics. I completed my university education with a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics at the University of Western Ontario.
Was there extra training required for this career after you finished college/university? If so, what?
In the province of Ontario, a prospective medical physicist is required to enroll in a two year training program in medical physics, offered at many universities and cancer clinics across Canada.
What is the coolest part of your job?
The coolest part of my job is to do exciting research knowing that someday it will positively impact a cancer patient's life.
Everyone makes mistakes so what was the dumbest thing you've ever done at work?
I spilled my coffee on the reception area floor in front of physicians, fellow physicists, students, and cancer patients.
What do you do in your spare time?
I spend my spare time playing many sports including baseball and hockey. However, I dedicate the most of my spare time with my wife and 3 year old son.
What is the last movie you saw? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
Dark Water (Thumbs down)
What music do you have on your mp3 player right now?
KISS and Van Halen, mostly
Any advice that you would give others seeking a similar career?
Don't close any doors. Choose courses that can cover all your interests should you decide to change fields. Keep your eye on any summer employment/co-op program that may help kick-start your career
London Regional Cancer Program
Canadian Organization of Medical Physicists: