Medical students who have an interest in space medicine can now take courses in the world's first officially recognized space medicine track as they pursue their medical degree. The track consists of a set of electives offered at Baylor College of Medicine and is managed by BCM's Center for Space Medicine.

Developed and implemented during the past four years, the space medicine track was approved by the BCM Curriculum Committee in April 2012.

Popular track

"This elective program through the Center for Space Medicine gives future physicians knowledge about physiological, psychological and medical issues associated with space exploration and the practice of medicine in harsh, remote environments," said Dr. Jeffrey P. Sutton, director of the center. "The track is very popular among the students, and we are fortunate to have exceptional instructors, including physician-astronauts, flight surgeons and leading scientists from around the country."

The BCM track includes four courses and an optional field trip to NASA's Johnson Space Center. First- and second-year medical students can take Introduction to Human Space Exploration and Medicine and Topics in Human Space Exploration and Medicine, respectively. These two courses feature leading space medicine physicians and space biomedical researchers from BCM and around the United States.

The Space Medicine Journal Club is offered to students in their second, third or fourth years. Third- and fourth-year students can also take Research Opportunities in Space Medicine, which allows them to conduct a pre-approved research project under the guidance of a mentor. The first student in the track will graduate in May 2012.

Push new frontiers

The Center for Space Medicine is a one-of-a-kind academic center of excellence where faculty, students, residents and staff work together to discover, educate and push new frontiers of space biomedical research and education. It also has a focus on translating space advances to benefit health on Earth. The center has 47 members, including 20 BCM faculty members from eight departments, seven of whom have secondary academic appointments at the center. Sutton is professor in the Department of Medicine and the center, and holds the Friedkin Chair for Research in Sensory System Integration and Space Medicine at BCM.

In addition to the approval of the space medicine track, the Center for Space Medicine enhanced its capabilities earlier this year with the official opening of the new 16,400-square-foot Consolidated Research Facility that it shares with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. The facility includes office space, four laboratories, meeting rooms and science and education collaboration areas for students, center faculty and visiting researchers and physicians.