What is your name?
(Captain Dr) Lisa McNamee
Where do you work and what is your role/job title?
Medical Officer – Irish Defence Forces
Co-Founder – Space Medicine Ireland
President – Aerospace Medicine Student & Resident Organisation (Ireland)
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
Yes, my role as a medical officer is mainly 9am-5pm Monday to Friday with some additional hours as needed. As a military medicine SpR I rotate between military and civilian practice. My work with Space Medicine Ireland is variable from week to week and can be quite time intensive when working on research or outreach projects.
Questions about your current Job
How did you go about getting your current job?
I took a fairly circuitous route to my current role to be honest.
After an arts degree in Trinity College Dublin, I chose to undertake graduate entry medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons before joining the Irish Defence Forces as a military medicine specialist trainee. I was exposed to aviation and space medicine at different points in my career and began to search for opportunities in the field. They were very difficult to find in Ireland. I applied for and was accepted to the European Space Agency’s Space Medicine Physician training course where I met Space Medicine Ireland Co-Founder and Trinity College Lecturer Dr Philip Brady. I then went on to do the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Principles of Aerospace Medicine course. Finally, I completed the Introduction to Aerospace Medicine training course from King’s College London.
During this time, I co-founded Space Medicine Ireland and began conducting research with collaborators across the country and with great support from international colleagues like Dr Shawna Pandya, an ambassador of the Canadian Space Agency. I’ve been fortunate this year to complete my MSc in University College Dublin in Immediate Care with a thesis focus on aeromedical dispatch.
Describe a typical day.
There isn’t one really but most days have some combination of clinical work (seeing patients with a variety of medical concerns) and non-clinical or academic work (working on a research paper, having a meeting with collaborators, working on articles for publication).
What’s the coolest part of your job?
Definitely the aviation and space medicine parts. I really enjoy research, but the practical elements are most interesting to me. Our space medicine research group is hoping to run our first parabolic flight in the next year and that is pretty exciting. Doing aerospace medicine outreach and education events is pretty amazing too – especially to younger audiences, kids have fantastic questions that can really challenge the way you see the world.
Are there any elements of your job that you dislike?
Time management is a constant battle. There are always more opportunities and demands on my time than there are available hours in the day. A good problem to have in one way but it’s important to manage your energy so that you don’t become overworked. It’s definitely something I could be better at.
Questions about education and training
What subjects did you take in school/college and how have these influenced your career path?
In school I took fairly random subjects, but the ones I enjoyed most were English, French and Biology. During the summers, I took courses with DCU’s Centre for Talented Youth and one of those – Classics – led me to choose to study it in college. It was probably the ancient medicine elements of that course that eventually led me to student medicine at graduate level.
Questions about yourself
What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
Being accepted as one of the first two ever military medicine trainees by the Irish Defence Forces in 2017 was a huge honour. Presenting my team’s research at the Aerospace Medicine Association Scientific meeting in Nevada, winning the Anita Mantri PhD award for leadership and outreach in the field of Aerospace medicine and getting second place in the Royal Aeronautical Society’s SciComm video competition all were amazing highlights of the last year.
What is your dream job?
Within the Irish Defence Forces, I would ideally like to eventually become one of the medical officers who specialises in aviation medicine as that’s the most exciting area of military medicine to me. Outside the Defence Forces, I would love to continue the education and outreach work in space medicine I am currently doing while building opportunities for students interested in this area. If a space medicine research project was ever available through the European Space Agency I would jump at the chance to take part.
Advice for people thinking of this job as a career choice
What advice would you give to someone considering this job? Are there important personal characteristics, or good work experience they can undertake for example.
If you’re interested in aerospace medicine, there are a huge amount of online resources where you can teach yourself the basics if you’re interested. Space Medicine Ireland has annual essay competitions, educational meetings and special bursaries available to help you learn more about this exciting field.
For military medicine, there are shadowing opportunities and medical electives available to students every year.