How to be a doctor on Antarctica?
December 21, 2010 11:03 AM   Subscribe

I want to be a doctor who works in Antarctica. How should I go about this?

Let's assume that I'm in excellent health and that I will graduate from medical school. What can I do to become the kind of person & doctor who would be selected for this sort of position? I'm also interested in this because I assume that such experience would make me a great candidate for some future mission to Mars.
posted by sunnichka to Work & Money (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ice Bound covers a physician who did this in 1999. The mechanics may have changed, but I guess that they still want EM training. Good cardiovascular shape is important; as she notes the gear is heavy and the partial pressure of oxygen is low for the pole station.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 11:16 AM on December 21, 2010


McMurdo Station is run by the US Antarctic Program--you could try dropping them a line. Their site, incidentally, states that "support" personnel are hired through Raytheon Polar Services. I wouldn't think that medical personnel are considered to be support staff, but it's worth a shot. There's some other helpful info on the USAP site, too.

I expect that a mission to Mars will be staffed out of NASA and the Air Force, not civilians who have served on Antarctica. Sorry.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:16 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Raytheon Polar Services runs the U.S. contracting for Antarctica. Two physicians jobs are currently posted on their web site (there are also PA/NP, Nursing, and Dentist jobs):

Lead Physician:

Required Qualifications:
MD or DO degree required. Current license to practice from any US state, unrestricted DEA license, and current active National Provider Identifier through NPPES (National Plan & Provider Enumeration System) required. Current ACLS and ATLS certifications required. Minimum of three years post residency experience as a physician working in primary care and emergency medicine environments required. Ability to treat primary orthopedic trauma, manage cardiac distress, and perform outpatient procedures required.

Desired Qualifications:
Board certified or eligible in a primary care or emergency medicine specialty preferred. Residency training in a surgical specialty with a minimum of three years experience in a primary care practice is acceptable. Training in aero medical evacuation, hyperbaric medicine, ultrasound, wilderness medicine and dental emergencies desirable.

Additional Polar Info:
... All applicants must be able to provide proof of U.S. or New Zealand citizenship or permanent residency once employment is offered and pass strict physical, dental, and psychological (for winter-over positions) examinations in order to qualify for deployment. Offers of employment are also contingent upon ability to pass a pre-employment drug screen and background check. Failure to meet these requirements may result in withdrawal of employment offer or other employment action. All employees must also comply with applicable safety, environment, health, and waste management policies and procedures.

Physician:

Required Qualifications:
MD or DO degree required. Current license to practice from any US state, unrestricted DEA license, and a current active National Provider Identifier through NPPES (National Plan & Provider Enumeration System) required. Current ACLS and ATLS certifications required. A minimum of three years experience in a primary care or emergency medicine practice after residency training is required. Credit for primary care practice before residency training will be considered. Ability to care for primary orthopedic trauma, cardiac emergencies and common outpatient procedures is required.

Desired Qualifications:
Board certified or board eligible in emergency medicine or a primary care specialty preferred. Residency training in a surgical specialty with a minimum of three years experience in a primary care practice is acceptable. Training in aero medical evacuation, hyperbaric medicine, ultrasound, wilderness medicine and dental emergencies desirable.

Additional Polar Info: (as above)
posted by Jahaza at 11:22 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I assume that such experience would make me a great candidate for some future mission to Mars.

If your ultimate goal is to become an astronaut, I suggest going to NASA's website and looking up the qualifications of current astronauts because I don't believe working in Antarctica is one of the main things they look for.
posted by Lobster Garden at 11:25 AM on December 21, 2010


I bet serving in the military and doing a tour of duty to get experience practicing medicine under adverse conditions would be helpful.
posted by yarly at 11:28 AM on December 21, 2010


I don't believe working in Antarctica is one of the main things they look for.

Maybe not for current astronauts, but working in close quarters with a small group of people in a remote area will be perfect experience for a mission to Mars with any type of current technology. Working in Antarctica couldn't hurt your chances, really.
posted by InsanePenguin at 11:53 AM on December 21, 2010


You could also have a look at the information for Antarctic Medical Practitioners for the Australian Antarctic Division. It has general information, and some profiles of previous medical practitioners who have worked there.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:08 PM on December 21, 2010


Oh, the site I linked above does briefly talk about joint work with NASA around medical stuff with broader application, too.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:09 PM on December 21, 2010


I know several people who've worked for Raytheon, just call them up and ask, they get a lot of calls and will give you an idea of who they have hired on the past.
posted by fshgrl at 3:45 PM on December 21, 2010


Thanks for all the good answers. To derail briefly, I'm not really interested in being an "astronaut" per se. It doesn't seem that people are looking to NASA any more for serious investigation of Mars. It's the private companies like SpaceX who might possibly be looking for qualified people several decades in the future. And I've heard many a rumor that, eventually--as in decades from now--it'll be the kind of people who have already proved that they can deal with such harsh, isolated environments as stations on Antarctica who will be the kind of people wanted for say, Mars colonization. I started thinking about it today after the article on the front page about Martian babies. "The Antarctic has long been viewed as an excellent analog for long-duration space missions."

This is nothing I'm planning as a full career track. I would just like to have the qualifications that would make me a good candidate to do awesome things some time in the future.

Thanks for everything! My summary from all this is that I should be a primary care or emergency medicine doctor, with training in aero medical evacuation, hyperbaric medicine, ultrasound, wilderness medicine and dental emergencies, and that Raytheon is the company I need to investigate!
posted by sunnichka at 6:21 PM on December 21, 2010


"Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad."
--Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

There are worse ways to express that sentiment than studying emergency medicine. Good luck!
posted by pwnguin at 8:06 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


A friend of mine just got a job as a medical staffer at McMurdo. I don't believe the position requires that much in the way of special skills--McMurdo is quite large and well-equipped, although Raytheon's website mentions that Medevac experience is helpful for times when a health problem is beyond the capabilities of the station. A job at Amundsen-Scott station at the Pole, or Palmer station out on the Antarctic Peninsula, might have more stringent requirements. Do you care what part of Antarctica you end up in? Are you more interested in working during winter or summer? If it's a spacelike experience you're after, you'd probably be interested in working at one of the smaller/more isolated stations and wintering over.

On the non-medical side of things, I'm told that it's important to apply for jobs early, since the competition is considerable.

You should be aware that anything you discover about Raytheon's hiring practices or preferences may not apply by the time you graduate from medical school. Their contract has been extended through 2011, but presumably it won't be renewed indefinitely.

If you're interested to know about what it's like to live/work at McMurdo station more generally, feel free to memail me, or check out the blog I posted to Projects last year. I may also be able to pass along specific questions to the existing medical personnel (I'll be there next week.)
posted by fermion at 10:36 PM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


« Older Buying an expensive car with cash   |   Time to be healthy Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.