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Friday, March 20, 2009

Will Canada's next astronaut be an MD?

The medical profession is well represented among the 16 remaining candidates in the Canadian Space Agency's unusual Survivor-like process to select Canada's next two astronauts, with two MDs and one med student still in the hunt.

The 16 candidates -- winnowed down from 5,351 applicants via a series of physical and skill tests (check out the photos) -- were introduced earlier this week. In addition to one microbiologist, one zoologist, and all the engineers and physicists, who dominate the list, the CSA chose Drs Christopher Denny and David Saint-Jacques, as well as med student Keith Wilson.

Here's what the CSA's bios say about each of them:

Christopher Denny
Born and raised: Toronto, ON
Current residence: Toronto, ON
-BA, Queen's University (1994)
-MD, McMaster University (1998)
-MSc, Clinical Epidemiology, University of Toronto (2004)
Christopher currently works as a Staff Physician and Trauma Team Leader in Emergency Medicine at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. He is also a Base Hospital Physician for Toronto Emergency Medical Services, a Transport Physician for Ornge Transport Medicine and a Team Physician for Toronto's Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team. He also works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto.

David Saint-Jacques
Born: Québec, QC
Raised: Saint-Lambert, QC
Current residence: Montreal, QC and Puvirnituq, QC
-BEng, Engineering Physics, École polytechnique de Montréal (1993)
-PhD, Astrophysics, Cambridge University, UK (1998)
-MD, Université Laval (2005)
David is currently a medical doctor practicing at Inuulitsivik Health Centre in Puvirnituq, Northern Quebec. He also works as a Clinical Faculty Lecturer at McGill University's Faculty of Medicine.

Keith Wilson
Born and raised: Winnipeg, MB
Current residence: Winnipeg, MB
-BA, Commerce, Royal Military College (1992)
-BSc, General, University of Waterloo (2007)
-MD, University of Manitoba (ongoing)
Keith is currently a medical student at the University of Manitoba. His career with the Canadian Forces included 14 years as a military Search and Rescue helicopter pilot and test pilot. While with the military, he also worked at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment, where he most recently was responsible for the coordination, conduct and efficiency of AETE air operations.

To decide amongst the 16, the CSA plans to conduct interviews with all the remaining candidates and subject them to medical tests.

The two selected to join the agency will be named in May, which happens to be the same month that Dr Bob Thirsk, a Canadian physician and astronaut, will blast off from Russia to join the crew of the International Space Station for a six-month stay, making him the first Canadian to live in space for an extended period of time.

Keep your eyes on Canadian Medicine over the next month or two for a Q&A with Dr Thirsk.

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