Today was the second session of Space Medicine, the only elective I’m taking this block. Growing up, my father never pushed me towards any particular field of science except one – astronomy. In fact, thanks to him, I was probably the only 1st grader who owned the entire library of Isaac Asimov’s space-related articles, videos, and programs (though at that time, all I could appreciate were the beautiful pictures). Around the time of high school and college, I became grossly interested in string theory and probability equations examining singularities in space-time. Now I’ve been given a chance to learn about how one of my childhood science interests ties in directly with my future career in medicine. 🙂
Today’s speaker was actually an astronaut who took part in four space missions (including the first shuttle launch after the Challenger explosion) and is currently a faculty member at Baylor Med. He talked about the difference between high and low inclination orbits (essentially, the amount of earth you can see), different medical tests he and his colleagues conducted in space, the experience of take off and reentry, etc. The best part of the presentation had to be the snapshots of different regions of the world from space. New York City is sure lit up at night… but Central Park… not so much. 😉
What baffled me is that this astronaut-turned-doctor now actively volunteers around the world to improve healthcare for underprivileged and disaster-struck areas. He included recent pictures from a trip to Haiti showing the desperate need for aid in Port-au-Prince, an AIDS initiative in Africa, and a program (which I don’t remember) in Pakistan.
How could a single person who spent twenty years in the Marine Corps as an aviator and electrical engineer become an astronaut, go to medical school, complete med-peds residency, and still have time to engage in the betterment of underserved societies? The thought still baffles me, but at the same time, it’s quite humbling. No matter how time-drained we feel as medical students, hard work and persistence in doing what you love to do can produce wondrous outcomes.
…and this is all from an elective. Sheesh. 😀