Page 1 of 3ACPSEM can trace its roots to 1960, when the Hospital Physicists' Association was formed. 1977 saw Australia and New Zealand professional organisation incorporate in Victoria and names: Australasian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine (ACPSEM). The initial aims was to ensure the provision of the highest leel of expertise and competence in the service of health care and to act as an education and qualifying body for scientists in this field.
Although the Journal APESM is now thirty years of age its origin, like that of the College with which it is inextricably linked, really goes back to the late 1950s1 early 1960s and, to explain the long seventeen year gestation period, one has to begin by looking at the state of medical physics in Australia and New Zealand in the 1950s, which may surprise many young readers of today.
By 1950 in Britain, Europe and the United States hospital medical physics had become a separate recognized discipline, and in Britain in particular physicists enjoyed a measure of parity with the diagnostic radiologists and radio therapists with whom they were predominantly associated, exemplified by the fact that within the very democratic British Institute of Radiology they enjoyed full membership, and the Presidency of the BIR rotated annually through Diagnostic Radiologist, Radiotherapist and Medical Physicist. In the teaching hospitals the hospital physicists taught physics to the radiology and radiotherapy students and they themselves studied anatomy and physiology (at least to a basic level) and also the interaction of radiation on living cells. There existed a high level of respect between the medical and physical disciplines.
Australia and New Zealand in 1950's
The situation in Australia and New Zealand in 1950 was completely different. Essentially there were only one or two physicists employed by hospitals and the radiologists and radiotherapists obtained their principal physics support from centralized laboratories. In Australia the Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratory, CXRL, (which became the Australian Radiation Laboratory, ARL, and is now part of Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, ARPANSA) had been established in Melbourne in the 1930s as a provider of Radium and Radon sources and X-ray standardization, and later in Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane satellite laboratories were set up, in Adelaide through the Anti-Cancer Council, in Sydney a Bureau of Physical Services located in the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and in Brisbane at the University of Queensland Physics Department. In New Zealand there was a similar arrangement aligned to the Dominion X-ray and Radium Laboratory in Christchurch. These brief details are only important to record in order to appreciate the degree of centralization that existed and the relatively low base at which medical 1 hospital physics, as we know it today, stood at the time.
There was very little contact between the physicists at the different locations, aggravated of course by the large distances between capital cities and the perceived difficulties of travel. The only subject orientated annual scientific meeting, fringely relevant, to attend was that of the Australasian College of Radiologists, and although xiv papers on medical physics were accepted there was little encouragement to participate, and then attendance was generally only possible if the Annual Meeting was being held in one's own capital city.