On Being A NASA Flight Surgeon


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Flight surgeons are physicians that care for the varied medical needs of aviators, flyers, pilots and astronauts. This thesis constitutes a literature review as to the characteristics of flight surgeons including from a historical perspective. In addition, a survey study is performed on a cohort of flight surgeons working for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) between the years of 1981 and 2011. This time frame represents the period known as the Shuttle Era. 51 NASA flight surgeons served operationally in this role, and 47 of them were contacted and provided the survey for completion. 35 of the 47 flight surgeons contacted completed the survey. Key findings of the survey included characteristics as to gender, age at NASA hire, areas of study in college and following graduation from medical school, specific medical training including advanced degrees, and military service. Non-demographic questions included areas of motivation, service and vision.



aerospace medicine, flight surgeon, NASA, Space medicine., crew surgeon, deputy crew surgeon, Shuttle program