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The Medical Physicist
Spotlight on Hidden Physicists
The Medical Physicist
Charles L. Chipley, Medical Physicist, 21st Century Oncology, Inc.
Charles L. Chipley, Nokomis, FL
Medical Physicist, 21st Century
I worked as an emergency medical technician in high school, and loved it, but had always wanted to be a US naval officer, which required a college degree. Since my military college had no maritime-oriented degree programs, I chose math simply because it was a subject in which I excelled in high school. After four years of college, I got my wish and started working as a naval officer. A couple of years later, while jogging in the surf at Virginia Beach, I stepped into a hole and fell. Unable to stand afterward, I was sent to the Portsmouth Naval Hospital's nuclear medicine department, where I was injected with a radioactive compound and scanned with a scintillation camera. I was informed that my ankle was broken—the phosphorus was taken up preferentially at the injury site. From that point on, I read everything I could about nuclear medicine, as I saw it as a perfect career fit for me, combining math (at which I was good) with medicine (which I enjoyed). After my commitment to the Navy was over, I transferred to the Reserves and enrolled back in school. I earned a master’s degree in health physics with a medical physics track from Georgia Tech. I then began my physics career working in radiation oncology departments of hospitals and freestanding cancer centers in Alabama, Maryland, Florida, and even the US Virgin Islands. I have done some diagnostic physics in radiology and nuclear medicine, and taught radiological physics to x-ray and radiation therapy students at community colleges.
I have been doing a job for twenty years now that I enjoy, and at which I’m good, and I am well-compensated to boot. I consider myself fortunate. Ironically, my lowest undergraduate grades were in physics—I got a C both semesters, the only ones I ever got in college. If you had told me then that someday I would be a physicist, I would have laughed in your face! Life can be funny.
Casey M. Dedeugd, Orlando, FL
Medical Student, University of Central Florida