UCF medical school hires space doctor, to start in July

It’s NASA meets medical school.

Scientists and medical professionals want to better understand what happens to the human body in space, studying radiation exposure, zero gravity’s impact on the bones, how eyes adjust in the vast darkness, and even space motion sickness.

It’s NASA meets medical school.

That’s why the University of Central Florida (UCF) has hired its first-ever Vice Chair for aerospace medicine in the college’s Department of Medicine, the school recently announced.

Emmanuel Urquieta will get paid $280,000 annually when he starts the new job in July.

Previously, Urquieta worked as the chief medical officer of the NASA-funded Translational Research Institute for Space Health at the Baylor College of Medicine. The institute was formed “to solve the challenges of human deep space exploration.”

“Dr. Urquieta is a recognized leader in space medicine,” said Deborah German, UCF’s medical school Dean. “Through his leadership, UCF will become a model of interdisciplinary medical research that will improve the health of space travelers and those of us on Earth. UCF was born as a university to support the space program and the College of Medicine is continuing this mission.”

Urquieta said he was excited to come to UCF, which is located about 30 miles away from the Kennedy Space Center.

“There couldn’t be a better location to study the health effects of human space flight,” he said.

At UCF, Urquieta wants to create a master’s degree in space medicine. It would be the only such program in the United States.

Urquieta’s expertise will draw in students from several different majors.

“As an educator, Dr. Urquieta will develop a space medicine curriculum that will be relevant to students across UCF, including those in medicine, nursing, engineering, computer science, and optics and photonics,” the school said in a press release. “He hopes that such an interdisciplinary program will help create space medicine experts who can better communicate and collaborate in keeping space travelers healthy.”

Urquieta’s field is becoming more important as NASA gets ready to send humans to Mars. The astronauts will be in space for 900 days.

Urquieta’s research could help people on Earth too, UCF said.

The school pointed to anti-aging treatments and radiation therapy for cancer patients as examples where his space medical studies could intersect with advances and improvements for the public.

UCF is proud of its deep connections to the space industry.

Nearly 30% of Kennedy Space Center employees are UCF alumni, according to UCF.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson also gave the keynote speech at UCF’s graduation ceremony this month.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .

One comment

  • Dont Say FLA

    May 29, 2024 at 11:28 am

    Texas got so bad that Dr Urquieta feels Florida will be safer for him and his family?

    Dr Urquieta must not be familiar with, ahem, cough cough, Dr Ladapo, Surgeon General of the Free State of Fleur D’uh.

    I would figure it must 100% remote work, but for Texas.

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