Raffi Kuyumjian – Flight surgeon

Return to Earth of David Saint-Jacques and his crewmates

What is unique about your job?
Space medicine is a very specific area of medicine: very few doctors in Canada have had the chance to contribute to human space flight.

What tasks do you perform during a work day?
I look after the health of astronauts before, during and after their mission, by coordinating and performing various medical evaluations and monitoring activities. I am also involved in a variety of technology development projects aimed at keeping astronauts healthy during future deep-space exploration missions. These new health care technologies and concepts must enable astronauts to become autonomous—to take care of themselves if they get sick or are injured—because they won't be able to communicate with their flight surgeon on the ground in real time and they won't be able to come back to Earth quickly.

Which professional accomplishment are you the most proud of?
I am proud of having contributed to the success of many short- and long-duration space missions.

Who or what helped you the most throughout your career?
Even though space medicine is a very narrow field, my passion for space exploration motivated me to persevere in order to get my foot in the door and to continue to look into space-related educational opportunities, while continuing to do something I love, which is practicing family medicine and offering emergency medical care in a remote region. I was lucky enough to be taken on as a flight surgeon at the European Space Agency before returning to Canada to work at the Canadian Space Agency. Without the support of my family, I wouldn't have been able to do this work, which is sometimes demanding and requires a lot of travel.

What advice would you offer to children and young adults?
Do something you love—it will bring you joy, and it will motivate you to give it your all and become proficient in your field. Further down the road, career possibilities will open up to you as a result.

How do or did you reconcile work commitments and your family life?
It's a constant challenge and effort to strike a balance between work and family life. You have to learn to prioritize. After I leave the office and when I'm on vacation, I don't check my email, and I don't bring work home with me. After being away for a long period to support an astronaut on a mission, I strive to make up for lost time when I get back by spending more time with my family.

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