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Release: Nov. 3, 1999

UI surgeon serves on national space medicine committee

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Carol Scott-Conner, M.D., University of Iowa professor and head of surgery, has been selected to serve on a national committee charged with "Creating a Vision for Space Medicine During Travel Beyond Earth Orbit."

Scott-Conner’s term on the committee, which is under the direction of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, runs through Sept. 30, 2001.

The committee’s goal is to help the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as it considers how to provide the highest quality medical care during future space travel beyond the orbit of the Earth, such as when establishing a colony on the moon or during space flight to Mars.

Space is one of the most extreme environments that humans have ever entered. The current NASA medical care approach has been adequate for short-duration flights. However, with prolonged human presence in space come new challenges. There is increased potential for acute, sub-acute and chronic physical and mental medical conditions.

Over the next two years, Scott-Conner and other committee members will evaluate the current NASA medical-care system, recommend infrastructure NASA will need to develop to support long-duration missions and explore opportunities to assist NASA in acquiring clinical collaborative expertise to support the recommended infrastructure.

The committee is composed of 15 leading clinicians, a psychologist, an ethicist and a physician astronaut. The members met for the first time in late October. Scott-Conner said she was delighted to be asked to serve on the committee because of her long-standing, personal interest in space exploration.

"My father, Dr. Charles W. Hoffman, was a physicist and an early member of the American Rocket Society, so I grew up with talk of rockets and space flight at the dinner table," Scott-Conner said. "I vividly remember going out with him into the backyard to watch first Sputnik and then the early Explorer satellites go overhead."

Scott-Conner added, "From the professional standpoint, I am extremely interested in problems of access to care for the severely injured."

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