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A Nuclear Medicine Physician is a Doctor who administers and manages nuclear medicine, which is commonly used to diagnose and treat conditions such as cancer, hyperthyroidism, kidney dysfunction, brain disorders, and pulmonary diseases.
This area of medicine is far different in reality than how it is depicted in media and culture. In popular imagination, “nuclear medicine” conjures up science-fiction images of glowing green creatures with extra eyes and limbs. In all reality, however, nuclear medicine — the use of radioactive material to diagnose and treat diseases — doesn’t mutate patients. More helpful than harmful, it treats them.
As a Nuclear Medicine Physician, you’re employed as a practitioner in hospitals, and your days are spent overseeing the testing and treatment of patients using “radiopharmaceuticals,” which are radioactive materials administered by injection, inhalation, or ingestion. When they’re broken down within the body, radiopharmaceuticals emit radiation that’s captured using a special camera, then converted into images that are displayed electronically on a computer.
It’s your job as a Nuclear Medicine Physician to choose and administer the radiopharmaceuticals, decide on the dosage, and record the radiation images, then analyze them in order to evaluate the molecular, metabolic, and physiologic conditions of the body (radiopharmaceuticals are typically designed to target individual organs and systems, such as the brain, myocardium, thyroid, lungs, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, skeleton, and bloodstream, as well as tumors). Based on your findings, it’s then up to you to make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.
Because of your knowledge of nuclear medicine, you may also work in clinical settings performing research, or in academic settings teaching medical students. Always, however, your goal is to use nuclear science to safely improve and enhance patient care.