Astronaut Trades Spacesuit For Scrubs To Help Fight COVID

Quebec astronaut David Saint-Jacques is trading his spacesuit for scrubs to help hospitals plagued by the COVID pandemic.

After seeing various calls for help, David Saint-Jacques decided it was the right time to return to medicine. The decorated astronaut holds a medical degree in addition to a bachelor’s degree in physical engineering and a PhD in astrophysics.

Last month, Saint-Jacques began a training stint at the at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in the hospital's COVID units, according to the The Canadian Space Agency.

"You can't go cowboy in these situations,” he said in an interview with CBC. "A lot has changed in 10 years."

Saint-Jacques obtained his medical degree from Laval University in 2005. He did his residency at McGill University in 2007, specializing in primary care medicine in rural regions. He practiced in Northern Quebec, among other places.

But soon after, in May 2009, he was selected by the Canadian Space Agency. Saint-Jacques launched to the international space station for a 204-day mission in Dec. 2018, becoming the CSA’s fourth-ever astronaut to do so.

He came back to Earth in June 2019, after going around our planet 3,264 times and travelling 139,096,495 kilometres.

He said he had never thought of returning to clinical care after his career in space travel. But, the pandemic pushed him to change his mind.

"This is a pretty dire situation in terms of the pandemic and staffing. Everybody’s tired," he told CTV News. "I really tip my hat to the rest of the health-care army working now. Complete selflessness. It makes me proud to be part of the medical community."

Since arriving at the hospital, he's been placed in one of the so-called "hot units," where all patients have received positive coronavirus tests.

"There is sadness, and we all can't wait for this to end, but we have to lead the fight," he said. "We see the waiting lists, which are getting longer. There are so many other things that you don't do while you are focused on it."