Medicine and Surgery Fellowship
Addressing the challenges of deep space medical and surgical care and adapting the solutions to help everyone.
The Arizona Program for Exploration Medicine and Surgery (APEX) started as an idea for a new aerospace training pathway to encourage procedural physicians to get involved with human space flight. Conceptualized by Drs. Eric Petersen and Anil Menon during the SpaceX Demo-2 mission, APEX has become a University of Arizona-hosted fellowship. Housed under the Department of Surgery, the inaugural fellow is slated to start in 2023.
APEX was created to address the challenges of deep space procedural and critical care. Aerospace medicine is a field historically dedicated to keeping healthy individuals optimized in abnormal environments and relies on preventive medicine techniques. The reality of commercial space flight necessitates redefining aerospace medicine to include the care of pathology in abnormal environments. This requires tackling the knowledge, technological, and training gaps in implementing procedural and critical care in deep space. APEX is designed to research and solve these inevitabilities, and to translate these findings to rural and global surgical platforms.
To accomplish this goal, APEX has partnered with the largest commercial space provider, SpaceX. This unique program will train physicians in the fundamentals of traditional aerospace medicine, provide training in austere surgical care, and pursue multidisciplinary research in surgical research topics.
"We are going to the Moon”
“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great - and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.” -Elon Musk
"To succeed in exploration and colonization of the inner solar system, the mindset of evacuation vs writeoff as the definitive medical responses must be replaced by a pioneering sense of belonging to a new territory and a medical emphasis on returning ill or injured crew members to work-rather than to Earth. Achieving the necessary emphasis entails recognition and acceptance of the following fact: Assembling and maintaining a medical-care system of high quality for exploration of the solar system will require sustained direct involvement from not only professional astronauts, operational medicine physicians, and aerospace engineers and managers, but also clinically current medical-care providers, medical scientists, and biomedical engineers."
Houtchens BA. Medical-care systems for long-duration space missions. Clin Chem. 1993 Jan;39(1):13-21. PMID: 8419036.
“Given the risks and isolation inherent in long duration spaceflight, a clever surgeon and/or surgical capability will be required onboard a Mars exploration vessel.”
Kirkpatrick, A.W., Ball, C.G., Campbell, M. et al. Severe traumatic injury during long duration spaceflight: Light years beyond ATLS. J Trauma Manage Outcomes 3, 4 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1186/1752-2897-3-4
Short term goals:
Become the first program offering both aerospace medical and austere surgical training.
Start with 1 fellow per year.
Teach the fundamentals of aerospace medicine.
Provide a unique curriculum around austere surgical and critical care.
Develop a space-focused surgical and critical care research program.
Long term goals:
Consider expanding to 2 years.
Consider ACGME accreditation and a board certification.
Consider expanding to >1 fellow per year.
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