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Physician-astronaut Col. Drew Morgan holds live Q&A from space

Army Col. Drew Morgan held up a floating USU pennant and grinned live from the International Space Station. He said there were tears in his eyes because "I am so proud. I am so proud to be a part of your team," talking to medical students at his alma mater, at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. (DHA photo) Army Col. Drew Morgan held up a floating blue USU pennant and grinned live from the International Space Station. He said there were tears in his eyes because "I am so proud. I am so proud to be a part of your team," talking to medical students at his alma mater, at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. (DHA photo)

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"Welcome aboard the International Space Station!" The auditorium crowd clapped and cheered as Army Col. Drew Morgan grabbed hold of a floating blue USU pennant and grinned. He said there were tears in his eyes because "I am so proud. I am so proud to be a part of your team," talking to medical students at his alma mater, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

Students from the Washington Episcopal School and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences greet astronaut and U.S. Army Col. Drew Morgan at the start of a live Q&A that was hosted on the university’s campus Oct 23. Col. Morgan answered questions from the International Space Station. (DHA photo by Hannah Wagner)
Students from the Washington Episcopal School and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences greet astronaut and U.S. Army Col. Drew Morgan at the start of a live Q&A that was hosted on the university’s campus Oct 23. Col. Morgan answered questions from the International Space Station. (DHA photo by Hannah Wagner)

A student from one of USU's STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) community partner schools asked the first question: When and why did you decide to become a doctor and an astronaut?

"A soldier, then a physician, and then an astronaut: I'm all three, but I decided in that order," Morgan replied.

When asked about the most important experiment being conducted on the space station related to health care, Morgan said it's "tough to identify just one." More than 300 are ongoing, ranging from physical and earth sciences to material sciences. He did note the 3D printer as well as studies of what he called microgravity crystals formed in protein molecules. They potentially could lead to medications to treat and fight cancer as well as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

The Q&A was peppered with special touches for Morgan.

EMDPP student, Army 2nd Lt. Steve Radloff, introduced himself and asked a question. "Steve, I'm so glad you're there," Morgan replied. "The greatest honor of my life was serving alongside you guys, and many medics just like you and … Steve, I've forgotten what your question was."

Special guest Army 2nd Lt. Steve Radloff, a medic who served alongside Morgan, introduced himself and asked a question of Morgan. (DHA photo by Hannah Wagner)
Special guest Army 2nd Lt. Steve Radloff, a medic who served alongside Morgan, introduced himself and asked a question of Morgan. (DHA photo by Hannah Wagner)

Morgan said robust telemedicine capabilities with health care experts on the ground, combined with prepositioned medical supplies, enable space station crews to operate without the specific requirement for a physician to be on board at all times.

"We are all trained the same, and we are all expected to be equally capable in all the tasks that are asked of us," he said, adding that in a surgical emergency, "we could get somebody [back to Earth] within a day. But then we'd have to send" the entire crew back.

Morgan was selected by NASA in 2013 as an astronaut candidate after serving in the Military Health System as an emergency physician with special operations units worldwide. He was among the three-person crew that launched on the spacecraft Soyuz 59S in July to live and work on the space station.

Morgan's serving as a flight engineer for the space station expeditions 60, 61, and 62, with a scheduled return home in April 2020.

Hundreds of students from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences gathered in the university's Sanford Auditorium, Oct. 23, to speak with astronaut, USU graduate and Army physician, Col. Drew Morgan, orbiting the Earth from the International Space Station. Col. Morgan serves as a flight engineer for space station expeditions 60, 61, and 62. (DHA photo by Hannah Wagner)
Hundreds of students from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences gathered in the university's Sanford Auditorium, Oct. 23, to speak with astronaut, USU graduate and Army physician, Col. Drew Morgan, orbiting the Earth from the International Space Station. Col. Morgan serves as a flight engineer for space station expeditions 60, 61, and 62. (DHA photo by Hannah Wagner)

The 20-minute event, held Wednesday in USU's Sanford Auditorium, was livestreamed to a worldwide audience through NASA and health.mil links. Watch the complete video below.

"As a health sciences university, everything we do is based on science," said Sharon Holland, deputy vice president for external affairs at USU. "We also have several STEM partnerships with local schools as well as programs geared toward students throughout the country interested in STEM-based careers. So when NASA offered us the opportunity to apply for this, we jumped at it."

USU is the federal health science university. Its primary mission is to prepare graduates for service at home and abroad corps as medical professionals, nurses, and physicians.

The crowd gave Morgan a standing ovation. Then, with the audio connection ended, he flipped in the air a few times before floating past the camera.

NASA Astronaut Speaks with USU Students

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