Medical Physics is an ever-expanding field as a separate discipline. During the past two decades medical physics has undergone a tremendous evolution, progressing from a branch of science on the fringes of physics into an important mainstream discipline that can now be placed on equal footing with other more traditional branches of physics. Applications of physics in medicine cover a wide range. The four important sub-specialties in medical physics are related to: 1/ Diagnostic imaging with x rays (diagnostic radiology physics) 2/ Diagnostic imaging with radio-nuclides (nuclear medicine physics) 3/ Treatment of cancer with ionizing radiation (radiation oncology physics) 4/ Study of radiation hazards and radiation protection (health physics).
Although medical physics is a well-developed discipline in all developed countries it is not well established in developing countries like Sri Lanka. The two obvious areas that Medical Physicists are needed in Sri Lanka are in the fields of Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine. In Sri Lanka there are six government cancer treatment centers and one private center to provide all types of radiation therapy procedures. The Maharagama cancer institute, the largest in the country, needs service of about 10 Medical Physicists. The other five government centers in Kandy, Galle, Jaffna, Anuradhapura and Badulla need about two to three Medical Physicists each. In addition, each base hospital in Sri Lanka now has modern diagnostic equipment such as CT scanners and is hoping to have its own nuclear medical facilities. Therefore we need at least one Medical physicist per teaching hospital in Sri Lanka to cover up the need on diagnostic radiology side. As the health service improves, the need for Medical Physicists will further increase.
On the other hand, in Sri Lanka the research activities on topics related to medical physics has not developed due to non-availability of appropriate facilities and resource personnel.
The Postgraduate Institute of Science (PGIS) of the University of Peradeniya with the support of other Faculties of University of Peradeniya, Cancer Institute at Maharagama, Atomic Energy Authority, University of Colombo and Teaching hospitals has formulated a M.Sc. programme in Medical Physics to train physicists, to meet the above demands. PGIS is the pioneer in starting the M.Sc. degree program in Medical Physics in 1996 and is the only institution that provides a postgraduate level program that caters to the need in the whole country.