UF faculty member helps UN agency focus on radiation in medicine
By Rachel Sharpe
In April, Manuel Arreola, Ph.D., moved to Austria in the hopes of sharing his expertise in medical physics with the international medical community.
Arreola, an assistant professor and chief of clinical radiological physics at the UF College of Medicine department of radiology, will work in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, an organization within the United Nations that promotes the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Based out of IAEA’s Vienna headquarters, Arreola will be the interim head of the organization’s Dosimetry and Medical Radiation Physics section, which is responsible for the quality assurance aspects of the use of radiation in medicine.
“It is not only an honor, but a very exciting mission,” Arreola said.
Originally from Mexico City, Arreola came to the United States about 30 years ago to pursue a master’s degree in physics at the University of Buffalo. He went on to receive his Ph.D. in medical physics from the University of Florida, where he returned as a faculty member five years later.
Arreola began working with the United Nations in 2010, when he embarked on a series of professional missions to UN member states including Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Ecuador and Cuba. Following these trips, Arreola was asked by the IAEA in 2013 to serve as the U.S.-based diagnostic medical physics expert. He was tasked with designing a program to support eight Ph.D. students in their efforts to develop member states through diagnostic medical physics.
“I didn’t even know there was a section of the IAEA that was in charge of medical physicists,” Arreola said. “However, I have always been passionate about forming and shaping others, and improving health care all over the world.”
It is this passion, along with the desire to advance patient care, that has driven Arreola to continue his work with the United Nations.
“The opportunity to share my professional experience and my passion for what I do is an extraordinary thing I’ve been able to do with the IAEA,” he said. “The goal we have here at UF Health is the same goal that people have all around the world – developing better, safer and more efficient patient care.”
Arreola’s work in Vienna is expected to last three months. He will be working on monitoring and coordinating a number of ongoing projects, including a major conference in pediatric imaging that is scheduled for later in the year.
Additionally, Arreola will review and edit IAEA publications, contribute specialized knowledge to activities and meetings of agency sub-programs and provide insight on other current initiatives from a medical physics perspective.
“That’s where all of the work I’ve done in the past comes in,” said Arreola. “Given my background, I know how these projects work and how they need to be coordinated.”
Arreola, who is also the director of the medical physics graduate program at UF, said he is especially looking forward to bringing what he’s learned back to his students.
“It’s a privilege to be able to pass on my experience and my knowledge to others. I have been very lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to train and educate fabulous young people, all over the world,” he said, adding that education is key to a better life for everyone.
Arreola hopes his work with professionals around the world will not only educate but also inspire his students to make similar global connections.
“When young people are able to start interacting with similar students and professionals all over the world, an international network is established,” he said. “That is what has motivated me to continue doing this type of work – the exchange of information and experiences by people who are all connected through the desire and passion for better health care.”