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Counting down to two

Jennifer Parraga, BA'93

Dr. Adam Sirek could fly a plane before he could drive. Now, this adjunct professor with the Schulich Medicine — Windsor Campus and enthusiastic space aficionado is one of 32 Canadians still on a list to be chosen as the next Canadian astronaut.

Flight and space has been a life-long interest for Dr. Sirek. When he was 11 years of age, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, and learned how to fly. However, with a family dedicated to the pursuit of medical research and clinical care, Dr. Sirek did not follow the path of many of his friends and began thinking more seriously about a career in medicine.

 “My grandparents were clinician researchers working alongside Dr. Charles Best; they had a huge influence on my life,” said Dr. Sirek. “Medical school was always part of my plan, so by high school, my life began to diverge from my friends, and I opted not to chase flying."

His interest in space never waned even during the most intense years of his undergraduate studies and professional school. In fact, he sought out opportunities that blended his interests and pursued an aerospace medicine elective at the NASA Johnson Space Center, where he had a chance to work with NASA surgeon, Dr. Chuck Berry, and meet astronauts Jim Lovell and the late Neil Armstrong.  

It was during this time that he worked with a research team to assess the viability of ultrasound as a modality to assess intracranial pressure in microgravity. At the time, NASA had identified this as an important issue, and focused significant time on determining whether long-term exposure to microgravity leads to elevated intracranial pressures and detriment to humans in space.

With passion and experience on his side, as well as a slew of recognitions and awards from the International Aerospace Medicine Scholarship and Aerospace Medical Association, Dr. Sirek says it’s an honour to be one of the remaining 32 people on the list. He believes that ultimately the two who are chosen will be highly adaptable people who can manage change and excel at decision making.

And if he is fortunate enough to be chosen, he looks forward to the opportunities that will be presented to him that will inspire him to think out of the box, apply some of the research he’s done, and bring back a unique experience that he can share with students.

As he waits to learn of the decision for the next round of reviews, Dr. Sirek is continuing his work with his busy family practice, while supervising Schulich Medicine clerks and residents, and teaching a clinical skills course. He's looking forward to opportunity to learn more about medicine and space and to possibly witnessing some awe inspiring views while circling the earth.