Medicine student takes health care to infinity and beyond

Final-year Medicine student Andras Szomor, has become the first Australian to complete a Space and Aviation Medicine Program

20 August 2015

Final-year Medicine student at The University of Notre Dame Australia, Andras Szomor, has become the first Australian to complete a Space and Aviation Medicine Program, facilitated by NASA in conjunction with the University of Texas Medical School.

Fulfilling many childhood dreams, Andras was one of only 20 people selected from around the world to participate in the four-week course, which provided applicants with foundational medical knowledge for treating astronauts and pilots from 40 leading experts in the field.

Such experts included the Director of NASA's medical unit, Apollo Thirteen's flight surgeon, current astronauts and commercial space flight experts from Virgin Galactic, Space X and Boeing.

Students were given lectures on spacecraft and aviation design from a medical context and studied flight-related medical concerns such as mitigating bone and muscle loss, radiation damage, Vision Impairment and Intracranial Pressure Syndrome, and nutrition on long flight missions.

With previous program participants having gone on to become astronauts, students were also briefed on the astronaut selection process and received astronaut training including hypo and hyperbaric chamber sessions, where they experienced what it is like to be in a low pressure environment similar to that found on Mt. Everest's Summit. Participants also got to practise flying and landing a plane at one of America's most advanced flight simulator facilities.

"The course was very fast-paced but I thoroughly enjoyed the unique opportunity to learn about the niche field of space medicine," Andras said.

"I particularly enjoyed studying about the medical considerations that significantly impact rocket engineering and the building of space equipment such as astronaut suits, having previously studied mechanical space engineering before starting my medicine degree.

"We had an exclusive tour of the Johnson Space Center; explored inside the cockpit of a shuttle; visited NASA's pharmacology research labs; and saw mission control where we were witness to ground staff communicating with astronauts on the International Space Station. We were also shown around NASA's engineering facility where they are working on the Orion spacecraft, to be manned by astronauts on a future mission to Mars."

Other participants in the course included a doctor from the European Space Agency, a surgeon from Oxford, and doctors from the Colombian medical aviation department.

Andras will begin his medical internship at St. George and Sutherland Hospitals in 2016.

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