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27-10-2008 by Laura Drudi

Medicine Beyond Gravity

I have been interested in space and medicine since I was ten years old. I never knew how to combine my passions until I discovered a branch of preventive medicine that caught my interest – aerospace medicine.

Aerospace medicine is a unique field of medicine. It is a specialty both particular and broad at the same time. What draws me into the aerospace medicine domain is the return to the fundamentals of the basic medical sciences. Aerospace physicians take all the knowledge that has been acquired since the origins of medicine, and apply it to extreme environments at high altitudes and reduced microgravity. It is a growing area of research, with any idea triggered by curiosity being an area of investigation.

Microgravity has a vast array of affects on almost every component of normal human physiology:
- cardiopulmonary function
- neurophysiology: motion sickness and alterations in sensory and sensory-motor function
- bone and mineral metabolism
- muscle structure and functions
- endocrine and biochemical functions
- hematologic and immunologic functions

These effects are just scraping the surface describing what exactly is happening to the human body in environments of reduced gravity. It is important to understand the mechanisms of action to establish a “new normal” for astronauts in reduced gravity, to then research pathologies and therefore discover new ways of treating astronauts in space.

Therefore, it is essential to launch a new era of medicine aimed to bring health care to the astronauts in space. It is essential to optimize the health and safety of astronauts before, during, and after aerospace travel.

The future of aerospace medicine is in our doctors. It is for those who would like to embark on a journey to become a pioneer, a student, a teacher and an explorer for the rest of your life in pursuit of researching the effects of microgravity on human physiology.

For those of you who are interested in aerospace medicine:

-become a member of the Aerospace Medical Association
-make an aerospace medicine club at your school
-you can also contact me at kèo nhà cái laura.drudi@mail.mcgill.ca

LAURA DRUDI is a first year medical student at McGill University. She conducts research, the president of the Aerospace Medicine Association, and enjoys extreme sports such as skydiving and scuba diving.