Natacha Cough, a third-year medical student at the University of Michigan, spent an evening in Cleveland and gave the NASA Glenn Academy students a talk on Space Medicine, which is the area in which she wants to specialize. The presentation took place at the Panera Bread in North Olmsted on a Friday evening.
Chough was a Research Associate in the 2000 Ames Academy, and then staffed the 2001 Ames Academy and the 2006 Goddard Academy. After discussing her Academy experience with the group, she began telling us about her path through medical school and goals after she is done.
Chough told us about the requirements needed to go into Space Medicine. The job of a Space Medicine specialist to provide occupational medicine service for astronauts and their families. For a Space Medicine specialist to become an astronaut, they must also has to go through an astronaut selection process and have to satisfy all the other physical fitness requirements, and recent astronaut classes have included a number of doctors. Previous Space Medicine specialists have been NASA civil servants and contractor MDs. After going to medical school, one typically gets a fellowship in aerospace medicine to go into this field.
Chough also explained the need for space medicine doctors. When astronauts go into space, there are a number of physiological changes that take place in their bodies. Astronauts experience bone loss, muscle loss and fluid loss. The T-cell count decreases and the B-cell count decreases.
Other problems include muscle atrophy, bone demineralization, kidney stones, osteopenia/osteoporosis, spinal elongation, lower back pain, space motion sickness, decreased sleep, and personal and inter-crew psychological stress.
Finally, Chough was also able to provide some of the interested Academyites with some contacts in this field as well as in the field of astrobiology at Ames. It was a great talk and one of the favorites for the biochemist and biologist in the group. She also spoke about how social media has changed how young people gather and share information about space.