Aerospace medicine focuses on the clinical care, research, and operational support of the health, safety, and performance of crewmembers and passengers of air and space vehicles, together with the support personnel who assist operation of such vehicles. This population often works and lives in remote, isolated, extreme, or enclosed environments under conditions of physical and psychological stress. Practitioners strive for an optimal human-machine match in occupational settings rich with environmental hazards and engineering countermeasures.
Aerospace medicine concerns the determination and maintenance of the health, safety, and performance of persons involved in air and space travel. The environments of space and aviation provide significant challenges, such as microgravity, radiation exposure, G-forces, emergency ejection injuries, and hypoxic conditions, for those embarking in their exploration. Neither primary care nor surgical specialties address these issues with the depth needed to manage the health care of military and civilian aviators and space explorers. Aerospace physicians are trained in the physiological implications of exposure to these environments and appropriate medical management to ensure safe skies for all.
Aerospace Medicine physicians can be found around the world. Since the discipline, by definition, finds its home within agencies and clinics that concern themselves with medical and safety issues related to transportation, aviation, and space travel, physicians completing training in this field do not generally practice in traditional hospital settings. They are employed in the military, commercial airline companies, regulatory agencies, space agencies, and the independent clinics for medical flight certification, or in academia.
The operational role of these physicians can be quite diverse. In the military, both active duty and reserves, their contributions range from medical support to a particular flight squadron and their families to evaluating military medical facilities. The civilian aerospace medicine physicians are usually employed by commercial airline medical offices, in private practice offices with aviator medical certification/review officer privileges, with regulatory agencies, in general aviator education, in accident investigation research, or with space centers for spaceflight crew medical support and related research. Thus, their daily responsibilities can range dependent on their employment site as well, from establishing certification protocols for aviators afflicted with challenging medical conditions to providing medical ground support to a member of a spaceflight crew experiencing illness in space or effects of microgravity.
Specialty board certification for physicians in Aerospace Medicine is provided by the American Board of Preventive Medicine, Inc., after completion of an approved 2-year residency and passing the Board examination.