You may have had an ultrasound or X-ray, an MRI or CAT scan...but do you know the science behind how this medical imaging equipment works? That’s what Year 12 Physics students from Corpus Christi, Oak Flats visited Wollongong Hospital to find out.
The group toured the hospital’s range of imaging facilities in order to further their understanding of how physics is used in medicine every day to detect abnormalities in the human body and save lives.
The learning experience tied in very closely to the HSC Physics curriculum and in particular, to the Medical Physics unit the students are currently studying. The topic covers the underlying principles of ultrasound, X-ray, CAT, MRI and PET imaging techniques.
Year 12 student, Jacob Sheil, said the excursion was a very timely opportunity to see how the theory they were learning about at school was applied ‘in the field’.
“Seeing everything in practice puts things into perspective - how complicated everything is and how it takes a team of skilled people to get things done the right way. It really helped my understanding of Medical Physics,” he said.
The tour included a visit to the Medical Imaging Department, where the group had the opportunity to see an ultrasound machine in action and a volunteer was tested! They also had a chance to view the X-ray equipment and imaging machines, and hear a presentation on the physics used in imaging techniques such as Computed Axial Tomography (CAT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans.
The class was then invited to the Illawarra Cancer Care Centre, where the chief physicist explained the working of the Linear Accelerator. They were fortunate enough to see inside a ‘Lin-Ac’ as it was being serviced.
In the Nuclear Medicine Department, the chief technician explained the application of radioisotopes in medicine and how they assist with diagnostic tests such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans. The students were able to take a close look at the PET machine and observed a demonstration of how the Tc-99m isotope used in such scans is extracted, or ‘milked’, from molybdenum-99 (Mo-99).
Student, Blake Brotherson, said the excursion to Wollongong Hospital had consolidated everything the group had learned about in class.
“The doctors and physicists were welcoming and knowledgeable. It was great to see real world applications of physics and how they impact on people’s lives,” he said.
“This is one of the best hands-on learning experiences I’ve had while at school.”
Classmate, Jacob Mudge, agreed: “I really enjoyed walking around the different departments at the hospital, seeing the different imaging machines we’d studied in class and getting information from the people who use them every day.
“It was a very informative experience.”
The Corpus Christi Year 12 Physics class would like to thank the staff at Wollongong Hospital for sharing their expertise and showing them around the departments. In particular, a thank you to the Medical Imaging Department clinical educator, the chief physicist of the Illawarra Cancer Care Centre and the nuclear physicist of the Nuclear Medicine Department.