New scholarship aims to prepare future flight surgeons to face medical challenges in space

A recently launched UCLA space medicine fellowship, the first of its kind in the United States, aims to develop the next generation of flight surgeons who will support the health, safety and well-being of human spaceflight and planetary expeditions .

The two-year program will include rotations at SpaceX and a specialized engineering program with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is managed by Caltech. Under UCLA, fellows will train in biomechanical engineering with the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, undergo austere medical training in a polar climate, participate in Mars-like missions in Utah, and conduct research with the Capability Element medical exploration of NASA’s human research program. The scholarship includes opportunities with other partner agencies, such as the University of Colorado’s Aerospace Engineering and Wild Medicine programs, as well as those in the aerospace industry. Fellows will also expand their medical abilities through surgical rotations and toxicology coursework while continuing their clinical practice as a staff member in the emergency department.

“We are thrilled to partner with Caltech, JPL and SpaceX to prepare future flight surgeons to deal with the unique medical challenges posed to people in space and the effects of space travel on the human body in this field by full growth,” said Fellowship Director Dr. Jo Feldman. “Our alliance with these industry leaders will pave the way for a deep understanding and knowledge of how to keep astronauts and space travelers safe, both in flight and during their missions,” Feldman added. .

The two-year program begins in July 2022, with his first colleague, Dr. Haig Aintablian, who recently completed his emergency medicine residency at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. Applications for subsequent years will begin in November 2022 and will be open to graduates of four-year ACGME/OGME accredited emergency medicine residencies who are eligible for a California medical license.

“It’s an incredible honor to be the first fellow to participate in this program and achieve my goal of becoming a flight surgeon,” Aintablian said.

During the fellowship, the month-long analog mission to Mars will simulate the rock formations on a Martian surface in Utah and also recreate the health hazards found in this environment. Likewise, Fellows will rotate through a polar climate that will allow them to experience sub-zero environments and how the body resists pressure changes in this terrain, creating an isolated environment where access to resources is limited.

With deep space travel on the not-so-distant horizon, UCLA’s space medicine program comes at just the right time. Our fellows will have the skills to help astronauts and passengers manage the effects of space travel on human physiology and maintain their health away from Earth. »

Dr. Greg Hendey, chair of emergency medicine at UCLA

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