Dr Sabeena Beveridge
Senior Medical Physicist
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Moorabbin Campus
I have never regretted my decision to become a radiation oncology medical physicist - I love coming to work in the morning. I wish that someone had told me medical physics was an option earlier on in my studies. You deal directly with patients and you can make a difference on a global scale. You also get to travel to conferences all over the world and meet interesting people who are doing amazing things. There are plenty of jobs and opportunities out there and you can work anywhere in the world. There is a lot of flexibility as well: you can do mostly clinical work or you can focus on research – it depends what you like to do, however you will always have to do some clinical work.
Radiation oncology medical physicists work behind the scenes in the clinic – ensuring patient safety and checking that all of the machines and software are working properly. However, a large part of our job is creating and inventing new ideas to improve treatments. There are not many jobs out there where you can create a new technique and see it being used to directly help people. As a scientist, this is very satisfying and rewarding.
I have always loved maths and science and knew that’s what I wanted to study at university. I started off studying computer science at university but I really didn’t enjoy the work, so I decided to just do something I loved – physics. I started off by completing my bachelor of science in physics and astronomy at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do medicine or medical physics but I was offered an internship as a medical physicist at the Vancouver Cancer Centre for a year and a half where I did research on prostate brachytherapy and published my first paper.
I enjoyed the work so much that I decided to do my masters of science in medical physics at the University of Saskatchewan. At the Saskatoon Cancer Centre, I worked in the clinic and studied for my degree at the same time, which gave me work experience and exposure to the many aspects of medical physics – not just Radiation Oncology but also Nuclear Medicine and Diagnostic Imaging. I was then offered a full scholarship at Monash University in Australia to complete my PhD in medical physics. This was an incredible experience and the project I worked on was amazing – I looked at a new technique that could be used to classify and diagnose breast cancer. During my PhD, I was able to travel to Europe and the United States to perform the experiments and really became part of an international community of research scientists. After completing my PhD, I was offered jobs from all over the world and decided to move to the United Kingdom to work. I worked as a senior research medical physicist and was in charge of creating and developing clinical trials and treatment techniques in the centres I worked in. I also did consulting for several research groups and obtained grants to start new and innovative international clinical trials.
I have since moved back to Melbourne and started working at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre as a senior medical physicist. My job is balanced between clinical work and research, where our group is constantly working on improving the services and treatments we give our patients.
What I like most about being a Radiation Oncology professional is that you are working within a team and everyone has the same goal – to help our patients and improve cancer treatment. I am constantly calling people in the United States, Europe, and Asia to seek advice or ask questions and everyone is friendly and happy to share information. It is a great environment to work in.