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August 2005 Issue

Timothy Broderick, MD, and NASA astronauts give an eager onlooker at the Newport Aquarium a glimpse of medicine's future.
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UC Surgeon Dives Deep to Perfect Surgery in Outer Space

Published August 2005

Timothy Broderick, MD, may not be an astronaut, but he's a man on a mission to Mars.

And he's going under the ocean to get there.

In October Dr. Broderick will participate in the ninth NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) expedition, an 18-day underwater research and training mission in the Aquarius research station submerged off the Florida Keys.

Isolated in a 13-by-46 foot living space about 65 feet beneath the ocean off Key Largo, the NEEMO-9 crew will be exposed to many of the same physical and psychological stresses that astronauts experience in space. Replicating the isolated condition of space and studying how the body changes will help the team develop advanced medical technologies that doctors can use to treat a sick or injured astronaut millions of miles away from the nearest hospital.

"We need to figure out better ways to care for astronauts before we make the long trip to Mars," said Dr. Broderick.

Working closely with NASA, the medical director for UC's Center for Surgical Innovation (CSI) is pioneering technologies and techniques that eventually will allow medical officers to perform emergency surgery in space.

"As a child, one of the coolest things I saw was an astronaut on TV walking on the moon," Broderick said. "I decided that I would become an astronaut some day, and I'm still waiting for the call."

Dr. Broderick's team was first in the United States to perform long-distance robotic surgery-telesurgery. Last March he relied on high-resolution video, a surgical robot and the Internet to successfully operate in California from the CSI in Cincinnati.

"UC is at the forefront of medicine," said Dr. Broderick. "We're developing better ways of teaching and practicing surgery every day."

Dr. Broderick is one of only nine non-astronaut scientists to serve as part of a NEEMO crew. An advanced medical technology expert and robotic surgeon, he helps NASA and the U.S. military improve care in remote places, including isolated rural towns, on the battlefield, underwater and in space.

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