‘Doctor in Space’ Shares Story
SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University welcomes Dr. Rhea Seddon, surgeon, astronaut, and ground-breaking entrepreneur, for an inspiring lecture based on her award-winning biography “Go For Orbit” at 7 p.m., Monday, March 27 in the Hemmingson Center Ballroom. The event is free and open to all.
Growing up in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Seddon was intrigued by the world’s first missions into space. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in physiology at the University of California at Berkeley in 1970 and a Doctor of Medicine from the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in 1973. Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1978, Dr. Seddon was part of the first class that included women. Embracing the challenges of the male-dominated NASA Astronaut Corps, she conducted three trailblazing missions investigating the effects of space flight on the human body, and from there forged an enriching career in health care based on many of the unique lessons learned at NASA.
“Dr. Seddon is a pioneer and a role model, a woman who forged a path in male-dominated fields and did so with great success,” said Ann Ciasullo, associate professor of English and chair of the women’s and gender studies department, which invited Dr. Seddon. “We are thrilled to host her at Gonzaga and look forward to the stories, advice, and inspiration she has to share.”
Among the first women selected to become an astronaut, Dr. Seddon’s three space shuttle flights during her 19 years with NASA totaled more than 722 hours in space, including service as a mission specialist for the Space Shuttle Discovery (1985) and Columbia (1991) missions, and as payload commander directing all science activities on her final flight aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia (1993).
She spent 30 days in space conducting medical experiments on how humans, animals and cells respond to microgravity and re-adapt to Earth’s gravity on return. Dr. Seddon and her crew performed neurovestibular, cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary, metabolic and musculoskeletal medical experiments on themselves and rodents, expanding knowledge of human and animal physiology both on earth in space.
In 1996, she was detailed by NASA to Vanderbilt University Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee. She helped prepare cardiovascular experiments that flew aboard Columbia on the Neurolab Spacelab flight (1998). After retiring from NASA, she served for 11 years as assistant chief medical officer of the Vanderbilt Medical Group in Nashville where she led an initiative to improve patient safety, quality of care, and team effectiveness through use of an aviation-based management model.
Dr. Seddon was inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame (2005), the Astronaut Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame (both in 2015). In 2016, she received the National Football Foundation Nashville Chapter’s Fred Russell Distinguished American Award, the Independent Book Publishers Association Ben Franklin Gold Award for Best Autobiography/Memoir – “Go For Orbit,” and the Athena International Leadership Award (Rutherford County, Tennessee.)
Her lecture is made possible by the Ed and Bunny Renouard Distinguished Lecture Series in the School of Engineering and Applied Science; the Gonzaga women’s and gender studies department; the Gonzaga academic vice president; the Smith Family Chair in Medicine at the University of Washington Medical School; faculty speaker series, College of Arts & Sciences; the GU departments of chemistry, biology, and mathematics; the GU Comprehensive Leadership Program; and the Gonzaga Student Body Association Speakers Fund.