UArizona, Banner Health, SpaceX launch fellowship to train doctors on aerospace surgery
PHOENIX — A first-of-its-kind fellowship program that’ll train doctors to do surgeries and provide critical care in space is launching in Arizona.
The APEX Aerospace Surgery Fellowship was designed to help fill a need.
Dr. Eric Peterson, the program’s founding director, explained aerospace medicine is traditionally a field “designed to keep healthy people healthy” and is focused on preventative care.
But with space missions trying to return people to the moon, and even farther out to Mars, Peterson said the probability of an injury or surgical problem arising is getting higher.
“So we need to try to figure out how to take care of surgical and critical care issues in deep space,” he said.
The one-year fellowship is a partnership between the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix and SpaceX. It will be hosted by Banner – University Medical Center in Phoenix beginning in July.
The one-year fellowship will provide training on austere surgical care, meaning care that is given in extreme and resource-constrained environments. Fellows will also be able to spend six months engaging in spaceflight-related activities and research with SpaceX.
“They’ll be involved with the commercial space flight operations at SpaceX to learn from the flight surgeons there on how to actually participate in a commercial space flight and to see where the next steps and needs are going to be,” Peterson said.
He added one of the goals for APEX is to form a group of surgeons and other specialists who will be part of medical teams that serve in upcoming aerospace missions, including those launched by SpaceX, NASA, Polaris and others.
“We’re preparing surgeons who will be capable of interacting well with the engineers and the preventative medicine specialists to help answer these tough challenges, but also to potentially be participants in space flights down the road,” he said.