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ED Physician Takes Off for NASA Training

Jennie Wang, MD, sits in NASA’s Historic Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center, from which early missions, including the moon landing, were monitored.

For Jennie Wang, MD, space came first.

"Any time there was a shuttle launch or anything to do with space, my parents made sure that I was in front of the television to experience that, including, unfortunately, the Challenger disaster," she said. "Even though it was truly a disaster, it piqued my curiosity even more."

That curiosity is about to be satisfied, as Wang late last month departed the Emergency Department, where she had been an attending physician for the last year and a half, for the University of Texas Medical Branch-NASA Aerospace Medicine Program in Houston.

As part of the two-year program, she'll complete a second residency—in aerospace medicine and preventive medicine—earn a master's in public health and become board-certified in aerospace medicine.

The path to Mission Control from Cedars-Sinai began on the East Coast. Wang earned an undergraduate degree from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., where she studied computer science and medical anthropology, before working for a time at a biotechnology company. From there, it was on to medical school at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine.

"During my third year, I developed my interest in emergency medicine, but also discovered there were opportunities at NASA to train in the space medicine program," she said. She was accepted to that program and spent her fourth year of med school at the Johnson Space Center.

After that experience, she completed her residency in emergency medicine at the University of Connecticut when her husband's job brought the family to Los Angeles. The couple have a 19-month-old daughter and two dogs.

Her time at Cedars-Sinai, she said, has been "amazing."

"The ED staff is absolutely amazing. I couldn't ask for better nurses, clinical partners, emergency department assistants, pharmacists, physician assistants," she said. "Everyone across the board has made my job easy. I feel spoiled and I will really miss everyone.

"I told the chairs, Drs. Torbati and Geiderman, that it is truly unique. The capabilities in that ER—nothing can hold anyone back."

Still, she added, "when an opportunity arises that I wanted to be involved in, from as far back as can remember, I have to take it."