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Biomed Imaging Interv J 2007; 3(3):e58
doi: 10.2349/biij.3.3.e58
© 2007 Biomedical Imaging and Intervention Journal

PDF version Commentary

A model for a successful organisation: IPEM

PC Jackson, PhD, FIPEM, FInstP

Past President of IPEM

Keywords: Medical physics, clinical bioengineering, professional organisation


The Institute of Physics & Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) is both a learned society and professional body governed by charitable objects, and as such the Institute has to comply with the laws relating to both companies and charities.

There are tax advantages in being a charity but it means that the assets of the Institute are not �owned� by the members, but rather the membership has opportunity to use the assets for the benefit of society and not themselves. The Institute has to be operated in a very business-like manner and statutory annual reports have to be made to Companies' House and the Charity Commission. Such a discipline requires the Institute to have excellent governance arrangements. Hence the Institute, by virtue of the members providing their time freely, is always seeking to benefit society in terms of improved medical practice, healthcare and understanding of biological processes. The objects of the Institute are stated as:

�To promote, for the public benefit, the advancement of physics and engineering applied to medicine and biology, and to advance public education in the field.
To represent the needs and interests of engineering and physical sciences in the provision or advancement of healthcare.'

The Institute seeks to fulfil these objects both nationally and internationally by working with colleagues and partners.

The Institute is a hybrid of three organisations formed many years ago: the Hospital Physicists� Association (1943), the Hospital Physics Technicians' Association (1952) and the Biological Engineering Society (1960).� These organisations, over a period of decades, have undergone various amalgamations and transformations until in 1997 the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine was formed. The Institute is fairly unique in that it combines all the professions associated with physics and engineering relating to healthcare and medicine into one organisation. Although not a trades union, and therefore not concerned with the pay, and terms and conditions of employment of members, the Institute is able to represent physicists, engineers and technologists at meetings with government committees when discussions of professional standards, training, education, introducing new technologies, safety, etc. are taking place. The co-ordination of the �physical and engineering sciences� into one organisation has tremendous benefits in being able to give informed and co-ordinated opinion on topics important to the development of healthcare and medicine. It makes liaison with other professional bodies, national and international, much easier by ensuring communication on matters of professional interest is prompt and relevant. However, it does mean that the Institute and membership is often �over stretched� to provide representation on government committees and those of other societies and professional bodies.

All the activities of the Institute are undertaken by the voluntary contributions of members supported by a secretariat of ten staff. The membership of the Institute is structured into categories reflecting upon the attributes, qualifications and experience of the member. The most senior title is Fellow and represents the highest grade of membership. On occasions, the Institute awards the distinction of Honorary Fellowship to those who have made an outstanding contribution to the application of physics and engineering in medicine. The membership is constantly growing and currently well exceeds 3,000 members worldwide, with the majority being scientists, engineers and technologists working in the healthcare sector within the United Kingdom. The Institute also attracts members from academia and industry. The Institute is a member of both the Science and Engineering Councils and can award the professional qualifications of Chartered Scientist (CSci) and Chartered Engineer (CEng), which enables comparable standards to be maintained with other science and engineering organisations. The headquarters of the organisation is located in York, England, for the purposes of having premises that are convenient to the majority of members located in the United Kingdom. However, many meetings are conducted in London and the Institute is very grateful for the excellent relationships with other organisations that� enable the use of their premises as well. These relationships are very wide-ranging and include all of the Royal Colleges associated with medicine (e.g. Physicians, Surgeons, Radiologists, etc.) and the other associated learned societies such as the British Institute of Radiology, British Nuclear Medicine Society, British Medical Ultrasound Society, etc. Members of IPEM are frequently multiple members of other societies including those elsewhere in the world.

As with many organisations the Institute is structured into various committees and sub-committees. The overarching committee is the Council, which consists of both elected and non-elected members, and is accountable to the membership. All members of Council are trustees in relation to charity law, and have responsibilities to ensure that the public gain benefits from the activities of the organisation.� There are four main advisory committees reporting to the Council: Science, Engineering & Technology Committee; Accreditation & Training Committee; Publications Committee and Engineering Group Board. These committees and the sub-committees are the key drivers to the outputs and benefits that the public and society receive. These committees and Special Interest Groups are responsible for many reports that set the standards within healthcare, which benefit the diagnosis and treatment of disease in patients; dissemination of information by organising scientific meetings and publishing official journals (e.g. Physics, Medicine & Biology; Physiological Measurements; Medical Engineering and Physics; and Journal of Medical Engineering & Technology); and participating and serving on the committees of other professional bodies. The Department of Health has greatly relied upon the Institute to implement and monitor the standards of training for Medical Physicists and Clinical Engineers. This has involved the Institute in accrediting academic courses at Masters level and also training centres where the vocational elements of knowledge and skills are acquired. More recently, medical physicists and clinical engineers have become a �regulated� profession under the title of Clinical Scientist. The purpose of regulation is to provide assurance to employers providing healthcare within the National Health Service that regulated professionals are competent and thereby provide assurance in terms of patient safety. The Institute is gradually having less direct involvement in setting standards and undertaking accreditation, as this has now transferred to a body known as the Health Professions Council in which Institute members participate. The next phase of employment regulation will occur for Clinical Technologists.

The Institute is very keen to promote development and has made available bursaries and travel awards, together with funded research fellowships. These activities provide opportunity for new knowledge both in the scientific sense and also to enable members to learn from colleagues around the world.

The Institute is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to international developments through European Federation of Medicine Physics (EFOMP), International Organisations for Medical Physics (IOMP), International Federation for Medicine and Biological Engineering (IFMBE) and the International Union of Physics and Engineering Sciences in Medicine (IUPESM). These organisations enable individual members and the Institute to communicate and participate in joint efforts to improve healthcare and medicine worldwide.

Received 31 January 2008; accepted 12 April 2008

Correspondence: 26, Betteridge Drive, Rownhams, Southampton SO16 8LE, United Kingdom. E-mail: (Peter Jackson).

Please cite as: Jackson PC, A model for a successful organisation: IPEM, Biomed Imaging Interv J 2007; 3(3):e58

University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Bayer Healthcare
Elekta Fujifilm Barco Transmedic

Official publication of

ASEAN Association of Radiologists
ASEAN Society of Interventional Radiology
Asia-Oceania Federation of Organizations for Medical Physics
Asian Oceania Society of Radiology
College of Radiology, Academy of Medicine Malaysia
Southeast Asian Federation of Organisations of Medical Physics
South East Asian Association of Academic Radiologists

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Department of Biomedical Imaging, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Malaysia


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