There is a great deal of
space at McGill...of the aeronautic kind. On October
2nd, 1998, Dafydd Williams spoke to
a large audience of McGill medical students about his
April voyage on the space shuttle Columbia. Dr.
Williams, who obtained his medical degree, MDCM'83,
and a Masters in Surgery at McGill, has recently been
appointed Director of the Space and Life Sciences
Directorate at NASA's Johnson Space Centre in
In speaking of Medicine on Mars, Dr. Williams made
it seem more fact than fiction. His team, working on
a plan to send humans to Mars, asks the question,
"What if they get sick?". But there is more
to it than simply sending along a ship's doctor.
Williams spoke of great research opportunities in
aeronautic medicine. On his own voyage, last April,
he and his crew did research into circadian rhythms,
hand/eye coordination, respiratory physiology, and
the orientation of one's own body in the zero gravity
of outer space. The team conducted surgical
procedures while orbiting the earth every 90 minutes.
"Impossible" is no longer part of his
vocabulary, says Williams.
As well as sending people to Mars, he and his
colleagues at the Space Centre will look into such
areas as robotics surgery, telemedicine, and the use
of artificial cells in treating patients. The sky's
not much of a limit.
On October 29th, 1998, a McGill science experiment
flew into space with astronaut John Glenn.
The experiment was carried out on behalf of Dr.
James Coulton (Microbiology and Immunology),
who is studying bacteria with a goal of creating
"smart drugs", ie. new antibiotics that can
be used against drug-resistant bugs.
Some McGill students already know that space
matters. Marlene Grenon, a medical
student in the Class of 2000, did her elective last
summer at the International Space University in
Cleveland, Ohio. Marlene studied in a 10-week
intensive program at the ISU that aims to foster
international co-operation in the study of aersopace.
She was awarded a $20,000 scholarship to attend. In
1997, she worked with Dr. Douglas Watt,
Director of McGill's Aerospace Medical Research Unit,
on the topic of spinal cord excitability in space.
of Medicine Newsletter Home Page