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Kerwin Award: Smith Johnston III

September 03, 2021

Kerwin Award: Smith Johnston III

Established and sponsored by KBR in honor of Joseph P. Kerwin, the first physician/astronaut. It is presented for advances in the understanding of human physiology during spaceflight and innovation in the practice of space medicine to support optimal human health and performance in space.

Smith L. Johnston, III, M.D., M.S., FAsMA, received the 2021 Joe Kerwin Award for his contributions to the international space medicine and science communities. He has served as a NASA flight surgeon for the past 25 years as a crew surgeon for numerous Space Shuttle and Inter national Space Station missions. His medical care of astronauts and their families has been second to none. Additionally, he led NASA’s Medical Selection-Retention Standards, and the Fatigue Management and Human Health, Performance, and Longevity Program.
   A native of Woodstock, GA, Dr. Johnston received a Bachelor of Science in biology in 1976 and a Doctor of Medicine in 1981 from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. From 1984 to 1990, Dr. Johnston completed residencies in Internal and Aerospace Medicine from Wright State Uni versity, as well as a Master’s of Science in Aerospace and Preventive Medicine and was Chief Resident in Internal Medicine from 1989-90.
   Dr. Johnston has served as a member of the Associate Clinical Faculties, at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Dept. of Preventive, Occupational and Environmental Medicine in Galveston, TX, and Wright State University, Dept. of Aerospace Medicine in Dayton, OH. He has served on the Advisory and Oversight Committees for the National Science Foundation’s American Polar Medicine Program, Washington, DC, the Board of Directors for Houston Medical Centers Hospice and Palliative Care System, and has held staff positions with the Veterans Administration Medical Center Emergency Department and Department of Internal Medicine, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, Inc., in Houston, TX. He also served on the Medical Advisory Board of Virgin Galactic, and the Scientific Advisory Board for Lighting Sciences, Inc, and Timeshifter, Inc.
   Dr. Johnston started his Space Medicine career in 1990 to 1994 at KRUG Life Sciences/Wyle/ KBR in Houston, TX, and transitioned to NASA Johnson Space Center as a Medical Officer/Flight Surgeon. Over the past 25 years he has supported the medical care of the active Astronaut Corps, their families, and the retired Astronauts. He has been the lead physician for the International Space Station (ISS) Emergency Medical System and Crew Return Vehicle development and has supported two Expedition ISS missions and over 16 Shuttle missions, including the tragic STS-107 Columbia mission. Over the last 5 years and before retiring from NASA, he served as the Medical Director of NASA-JSC Aerospace and Occupational Medicine Clinics, and was the lead of NASA’s Astronaut Medical Selection and Retention Standards, and the Fatigue Management and Human Health, Performance, and Longevity Programs.
   In addition to over 100 scientific publications, book chapters, and keynote speaker presentations, Dr. Johnston has been the recipient of numerous awards including the NASA Space and Life Science Performance Award, the NASA Superior Service Award, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, and recently in 2020 received NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal. He is a member and received the Society of NASA Flight Surgeons, Lovelace Award in May 2011, and the Space Medicine Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in May 2012. He served as President of the Space Medicine Association in 2005 and President of the Society of NASA Flight Surgeons in 2006. Dr. Johnston is a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association.
   Dr. Johnston’s expertise centers on taking the innovations discovered from the US and International Space Programs to benefit, not only the lives of the Astronauts and Cosmonauts, but also his Earth-bound patients. He gives educational presentations on Space Medicine, and its terrestrial applications for Human Health, Performance, and Longevity and has been featured in various media including NOVA, Discovery Channel, Scientific America, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Houston Chronicle, Consumer Reports,
and USA Today.
   Dr. Johnston recently retired from NASA in 2019 and is now the Chief Medical Officer for Axiom Space, Inc. in Houston, TX. Axiom Space, Inc. is building the next generation commercial Space Station to replace the ISS after its decommissioning in 2028.