Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Space Medicine

Let's face it – at the moment we don't have many opportunities for professional astronomy in the Philippines. The truth is, our government simply does not have that much of a priority for the sciences. We've all heard about scientists moving to other countries for better opportunities, and inventors selling their patents abroad because no one is willing to support them. When I entered this field I have worked in the academe, educational service companies, and non-profit groups. I have also seen the kind of jobs my students have been able to find. Sadly, there are a lot of students with potential out there who had to extinguish the flames of their passion for more lucrative careers.

Among the students I've talked to, the field of medicine seems to be one of the most common choices. Not wanting to put their potential and passion for astronomy to waste I usually point out a direction that they can put into consideration – space medicine. Space medicine involves proactive and reactive care of humans to optimize their performance and well-being under the extreme environment of space.

In the environment of space the human body is subjected to various effects like bone and muscle loss, reduced cardiovascular function, radiation exposure, microgravity, and even effects on mental health. These factors can result to symptoms such as: loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia, dehydration, skin inflammation, back pain, respiratory infection, eye irritation, UTI, abnormal heart beats, muscle strain, diarrhea, constipation, ear problems, and lung inflammation. These symptoms have to be diagnosed correctly for the effects and treatment may be different on the ground and in space.

Be it on the ground, or out in space, there are many ways in which space medicine is needed. Among the tasks involved are the production of documentation for medical requirements; medical selection and certification of astronauts; biomedical training on medical protocols; flight health evaluation and monitoring; provide preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic care; environmental health and monitoring; crew rehabilitation and fitness evaluation; and emergency medical services.

With humanity's plans to go to Mars in the relatively near future, there will eventually be a need for medical students entering space medicine to serve as future doctors in space crews. Who knows, maybe one of the students I've talked to will get to be one of them.

For those of you who wish to learn more about space medicine, here is a listing of some useful references:

No comments: