Frequently Asked Questions

What is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear Medicine is a medical specialty which utilizes tracer chemicals labeled with radioactive isotopes to image disease processes, and to perform targeted therapy for specific diseases.  Primarily, nuclear medicine is a diagnostic specialty, where the focus is on characterizing physiologic functions in normal and abnormal states, with an additional focus on anatomic correlation.
What is the philosophy towards NM training at the University of Alberta?
At this institution, the Nuclear Medicine practice is highly integrated into the diagnostic imaging department, and the Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine practices share close links.  The vast majority of nuclear physicians in this setting are also fully qualified radiologists.  We believe that anatomical radiologic correlation is indispensible to maximizing the power and diagnostic reach of nuclear medicine practice.
How does this reflect in the training at the University of Alberta residency program?
We offer a seven-year combined nuclear medicine and diagnostic radiology program.  This is designed to fully qualify the candidate to practice both specialties, and to obtain Royal College certification in both disciplines.  Our candidates have historically been highly successful at their Canadian Royal College examinations.
Is it possible to train purely in nuclear medicine?
Our program is very much geared towards combined training.  It may be technically possible under some circumstances to pursue a conventional 5-year residency program in nuclear medicine, but such requests would be reviewed case-by-case. 
How does the radiology training in the combined Nuclear Medicine program compare to that offered in the Diagnostic Radiology program?
There is slightly less flexibility, in that the nuclear medicine candidate has to complete a larger amount of nuclear medicine training in the first 5 years whilst performing their radiology training than would a candidate in the diagnostic radiology program.  Otherwise, the radiology training portion of the combined program is identical to that of the diagnostic radiology candidates.
Are there many opportunities for research and teaching?  Is funding provided for conferences?
Myriad opportunities for research and teaching are available to program residents.  In addition to the informal viewerside instruction of more junior trainees expected of all residents in the department, formal medical student teaching sessions make up part of the medical school's link block, as well as the student intern surgery and medicine rotations. Seminars directed towards training resident-teachers are available to all residents at the University of Alberta.
The University of Alberta diagnostic imaging department has several faculty members with official research appointments.  They offer supervision in projects in all the major imaging subspecialty areas including nuclear medicine.  All residents must complete at least one research project in their training, and if accepted to present at a conference, funding support is available from the program.
What are some of the most exciting things about a career in Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear Medicine promises to be a vital specialty in the future of the practice of medicine in Canada and worldwide.  The ability to image the function of organ systems provides vital diagnostic information to the clinician, enabling the more efficient and accurate clinical management of surgical and medical patients.  As a nuclear physician, other expert clinicians rely on your expertise to guide their patient care - this role is becoming increasingly vital in contemporary healthcare.
Nuclear Medicine continues to evolve, incorporating new modalities, such as PET/CT and SPECT/CT which hybridize anatomic and functional imaging techniques.  Research in the field of nuclear medicine promises to deliver a future of patient-tailored custom imaging targeted at the molecular basis of human disease states.  Molecular imaging is an emerging area in nuclear medicine which could one day revolutionize the way we care for the sick.

Dr. Christopher Winter
Nuclear Medicine Program Director