McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Space medicine training programs focus for talk

by Laura Thompson
Published: February 20, 2009
Joan Saary
Joan Saary, a McMaster graduate and consultant to the Canadian Space Agency

Training to become a specialist in health care takes years of study and lots of hard work. But imagine if you were assigned to become the crew medical officer aboard a long-duration mission to space. What specialized knowledge would be called for? Would you need to be a doctor? What skills would be required in addition to medical training?

Those are just a few of the questions audience members will be asked to consider at Isolated and Alone: Training the Medical Crew Officer for Long-Duration Missions, a free public lecture that will be presented Feb. 24, 2009, as part of McMaster University seminar series on space medicine.

The lecture will be presented by Dr. Joan Saary, a McMaster graduate and consultant to the Canadian Space Agency.

"In space medicine, there are unique challenges that one might never encounter on Earth," said Saary, who earned her Honours B.Sc. from McMaster. "To develop a training program for remote health-care providers, one has to think about the environment and the physical and engineering challenges that come with it. Take, for example, the size and weight of medical equipment and the costs involved to move that equipment in space. All of these things are non-medical, but play into the medical decisions."

A physician, Dr. Saary is a specialist in occupational medicine and has a PhD in medical science.  In 2000, she trained in aerospace medicine at NASA and a year later received a highly competitive scholarship from the Centre for Research in Earth and Space Technology to attend the International Space University in Germany.

Since then, she has worked as a consultant on many Canadian Space Agency projects, most recently serving as the lead for a project to develop training and maintenance of competence program for remote health-care providers.

Audio: Interview with Sheila Whelan, project coordinator in the Department of Surgery
John Biggs Show, Talk 820 radio

The lecture, presented by the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program, will be held in the Ewart Angus Centre of the McMaster Health Sciences Centre, room HSC-1A6, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  Attendees are asked to RSVP to

For additional information about the seminar series, call 905-522-1155, ext. 34399, or email

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