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Physicians Trade White Coats for Space Suits

Chris Anne Raymond, PhD
JAMA. 1986;256(15):2033-2038. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380150043007.
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"I'M GOING to stay with NASA. It's my job and I like it. Obviously, there was negligence involved. There were parts of the team that let us [NASA] down," says Story F. Musgrave, MD.

Musgrave's thoughts on the Challenger explosion mirror those of many of his physician-astronaut colleagues: The tragedy sparked a period of reassessment and, ultimately, recommitment to a career that has taken them away from the daily practice of medicine, but richly rewarded them with both physical and intellectual challenges.

Because shuttle flights won't resume until some time in 1988, according to NASA, "everybody reevaluated. And perhaps some who would have decided to leave NASA in the near future said, 'now's a good time,' " says Rhea Seddon, MD.

Some have received attractive offers from industry. Others, Seddon says, while not openly saying so, may have thought, " 'I saw my friends die and I see what their spouses are


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