Leveraging my training in space medicine for technological innovation

A woman in headphones works in an aeroplane seat, her long hair floating.

Shawna Pandya exams out virtual-reality medical platforms below microgravity circumstances.Credit score: IIAS

Rising up within the Nineties, Shawna Pandya watched Canada’s first feminine astronaut, medical physician Roberta Bondar, fly into area. Pandya was captivated. So after incomes a bachelor’s diploma in neuroscience from the College of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, in 2006, she pursued a grasp’s on the Worldwide House College in Strasbourg, France, graduating in 2007. She accomplished a level in drugs on the College of Alberta in 2012. Now, alongside a profession in emergency drugs with Alberta Well being Providers in Edmonton, Pandya juggles mission coaching with entrepreneurial actions. She tells Nature about a few of the enterprise alternatives her profession has led to, and the way technological innovation for drugs in area may also assist to ship higher well being care in distant settings on Earth.

What entrepreneurial actions are you concerned in?

I’m presently the vice-president of immersive drugs at Luxsonic Applied sciences, primarily based in Saskatoon, Canada, a start-up firm that leverages immersive applied sciences akin to digital actuality (VR) 360° video and prolonged or blended actuality, for delivering well being care.

What’s immersive virtual-reality drugs?

Immersive is an umbrella time period for applied sciences that immerse the person in a 3D atmosphere. For instance, a rural doctor working in a small neighborhood doesn’t have area to help a standard medical-imaging studying room, however the lack of bodily area for high-resolution screens could be overcome with digital actuality. On this manner, radiologists working remotely can nonetheless learn photographs for his or her instances. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted proof-of-application for this.

A woman in flight overalls, looking at the camera against a starry background.

Pandya, an emergency-medicine doctor, argues that we’d like rather more analysis on how area impacts girls’s our bodies throughout long-term missions.Credit score: Cooper & O’Hara

How would virtual-reality drugs be utilized in area?

I wish to name the problem concerned in packing for journeys to area the Aladdin precept: infinite cosmic energy to get to area; itty-bitty residing area as soon as we get there. House-packing ideas imply low mass, low quantity, low price, lengthy shelf life and straightforward to make use of. A virtual-reality radiology studying room meets packing constraints — low mass, quantity and energy — but with decision equal to that of a standard studying room for physicians and crew medical officers to analyse photographs.

On the coaching aspect, talent deterioration and lack of experience are dangers on long-duration missions. Think about if, as a crew medical officer who learnt to place in an intravenous line on Earth, you’re not known as on to make use of that talent till you arrive on Mars 9 months later. In case you haven’t practised, that muscle reminiscence will deteriorate and your affected person may find yourself wanting like a pincushion. Somewhat than create a bodily simulation with mannequins, you possibly can recreate the scenario in digital actuality with a Luxsonic platform known as CaregiVR.

What different merchandise have you ever been concerned in at Luxsonic?

First, we have now SieVRt, which is a virtual-reality mock-up of the entire high-resolution screens and back-end instruments that radiologists have to interpret medical photographs. This ‘digital twin’ of a radiology studying room eliminates cumbersome infrastructure.

I first examined the SieVRt suite expertise on an aquanaut mission, an area simulation performed in a coaching capsule below water on the Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Florida. As a crew medical officer, I had a digital assembly with Paul Babyn, then the top of medical imaging on the College of Saskatchewan’s Royal College Hospital in Saskatoon, greater than 4,400 kilometres away, to assessment a shoulder blade fracture in a simulated trauma affected person. I then ‘flew’ that SieVRt suite in zero gravity to check its readiness for area. Later, on the Canadian House Company (CSA) Nationwide House Well being Discussion board, Luxsonic’s chief govt requested my experience in area and excessive environments to develop different procedures for long-duration missions.

One other product I’ve been concerned in is virtual-reality modules for coaching and expertise apply utilized by search and rescue personnel, laboratory technicians, paramedics and superior trauma life-support personnel.

What expertise out of your coaching translate to your entrepreneurial roles?

For my work each at Luxsonic and as a medical adviser for different corporations — akin to Above: House Growth — the number-one translatable talent is medical data of emergency-room care. For instance, when constructing a virtual-reality medical module for resuscitation within the trauma bay, it’s essential to know the sequence of expertise required, plus particulars akin to the location of screens, the biohazard disposal bin and private protecting tools.

One other instance is translating English to developer language — what builders have to program a virtual-reality module.

How do you steadiness your entrepreneurial roles together with your astronaut duties and medical profession?

My life is sort of a field of goodies — I by no means know what I’m going to get. Usually, I cowl a small-town hospital from 5 p.m. on Friday to eight a.m. on Monday. On Tuesdays, I practise major care at an city clinic, specializing in girls’s well being. The remainder of the week I deal with Luxsonic duties, my place as director of the Worldwide Institute for Astronautical Sciences’ space-medicine group, and analysis from missions. For instance, knowledge from the second NEPTUNE underwater mission that we completed in Might contributed to analysis on engineering artificial pores and skin, testing SieVRt and learning how the attention adjustments below stress. So every single day is a bit completely different. There’s no 9 to 5, 5 days per week. It’s seven days per week. I’m engaged on a aircraft, in airports, wherever I can. I do it as a result of I find it irresistible.

Traditionally, area science has lacked range. What adjustments are wanted to make an actual distinction in human exploration?

I’m an enormous fan of the expression ‘don’t do it for me, with out me’. The whole lot is a brand new frontier as a result of solely round 600 folks have ever been to area. About 12% of these folks had been feminine, with simply 1% of them Black girls. We undoubtedly want extra knowledge; 12% is an almost-embarrassing minority. There’s a now-infamous story about Sally Experience being despatched into area with 100 tampons for a 6-day journey. For me, that lack of know-how is a degree of competition.

For instance, feminine astronauts typically take hormonal contraceptives to cease their cycles in area. I used to be as soon as speaking to a senior medical worker at NASA and I requested “How messy does it get?” He stated that the blood clogs up the bathroom. I responded, “What!? You’d moderately girls re-engineer their our bodies than engineer a greater bathroom? You’re NASA! Engineer a greater bathroom!”

The underside line is that additional research is required to know the results of area journey on girls’s our bodies. Research have proven that feminine rodents have had issues with ovulation, miscarriages and different intercourse variations due to the impression area has on biology.

What recommendation would you give to younger folks interested in a profession in area science?

That is essentially the most thrilling time to be a part of human area flight and exploration. Entry is unparalleled. We’d like all comers. So whether or not that’s advertising, storytelling, coverage, science or drugs — decide what you’re enthusiastic about — goal to be the very best, work laborious to get there, and don’t let anybody inform you that you just don’t belong. There’s completely area for you.


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