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The Mission of Medicine in Space

Charles “Marsh” Cuttino, MD, TeamHealth regional medical director for HCA Virginia, contributes to aerospace medicine research while leading world-class emergency departments.

The support and flexibility provided by TeamHealth allows Dr. Cuttino to work in both the fields he loves and make a difference for patients on Earth and astronauts.

At TeamHealth, you determine the path you want your career to take. Watch the video below to get a deeper look into how Dr. Cuttino promotes growth of the clinical field and lives out the TeamHealth purpose.

Dr. Cuttino’s story

Dr. Cuttino’s earliest memories include watching astronauts walk on the moon for the first time. He grew up with an interest in space, and he considered becoming an astronaut.

“I always wanted to be an explorer,” Dr. Cuttino said. “I wanted to control and conquer the unknown and, of course, the conquest of space seemed the most exciting and challenging opportunity we would face in our lifetime.”

His interest in space exploration continued to drive him as he developed his career in medicine. After completing medical school, Dr. Cuttino attended the University of Florida Emergency Medicine Residency in Jacksonville, Florida. He was drawn to the program because of the university’s opportunities for residents to serve in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Shuttle Program.

He trained at NASA and was able to work as a launch and landing support physician for shuttle operations. Dr. Cuttino learned about shuttle operations, such as how the astronauts are brought off the shuttle, how to cut open a spacesuit, how to extricate an injured astronaut and how to take an astronaut’s helmet off safely.

“Working for NASA is always an exciting feeling,” Dr. Cuttino said. “It is an agency that recognizes excellence and that has always been something that motivated me to improve and push myself. One of the reasons I went to medical school and excelled in my classes was my internal motivation to build the qualifications that would be attractive to NASA and further my career.”

Researching Medicine in Space

Dr. Cuttino is passionate about microgravity and aerospace medicine research, and in the early 2000s, he formed Orbital Medicine, Inc. to further his research. He helped develop a human patient simulator functional in the space environment.

In 2015, through a NASA Flight Opportunities Grant, Dr. Cuttino researched treatments for a collapsed lung. Rapid pressure changes in space increase the risk of a collapsed lung. The ability to treat an injured astronaut in space will be critical to advance interplanetary exploration.

Dr. Cuttino and his team developed a suction device for this purpose that was tested on the Blue Origin New Shepard spacecraft in 2017. The device removes air and blood to promote healing, and it collects and transfuses blood into an injured astronaut. Dr. Cuttino eagerly watched the video showing that it worked in space exactly as intended.

“Working for TeamHealth gives me the opportunity to have the kind of exciting research life that I want and still work as an emergency medicine physician,” Dr. Cuttino said. “It’s the best of both worlds, and I’ve found TeamHealth to be incredibly supportive. I think it’s great to work for a company that allows you to pursue your own personal passions and desires. My hope is that the technology that I am developing now will save someone’s life in a future space mission.”

The support provided by TeamHealth allows Dr. Cuttino to live out his TeamHealth purpose and perfect the practice of medicine on Earth and in space.