Emergency Medicine is Out of this World: The Role of Diving and Hyperbarics in the Space Program
Saturday, April 20, 2024; 11:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Robert Sanders, DMT, MD, FACEP, FUHM

There are many unique fields of emergency medicine. One that a number of ER docs support is space medicine. Space medicine combines many medical specialties to examine the effects of space flight on humans and prevent and treat problems associated with living in the unique, isolated, and extreme environment of space. One path into space medicine is through the ACGME recognized ABEM board-certified subspecialty of Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine. This presentation will give an overview of space medicine and the role that EM and UHM play in the role of the Space Medicine Flight Surgeon.


  1. Define Space Medicine.
  2. Understand the role of Undersea Medicine in the practice of space medicine.
  3. List three (3) risks of space medicine that the EM physician is uniquely trained to help.



Robert Sanders, DMT, MD, FACEP, FUHM

Dr. Robert Sanders’ “medical” career began in 1989 as an EMT & Ski Patrol member, and in 1993 he ventured into hyperbarics as a technician and supervisor at the USC/Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber. He also served as a diver and field safety officer (dive medic) in Antarctica for 4 seasons collecting single-celled organisms in 28º water 100’ below 12’ of ice.
Needing to learn more, Sanders received an MD from Chicago Medical School. After residency in Emergency Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, he became boarded in Emergency Med, & Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine training at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Hyperbaric Treatment Center.

Currently, Sanders is a Flight Surgeon for NASA serving as the Program Medical Officer for the EVA (spacewalking) and Human Surface Mobility (Lunar Rovers) Program. Previously he spent 8 years on contract to NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory from UTMB as the Medical Director. He has also been the Medical Director for American Hyperbaric Centers in Anchorage AK (overseeing clinical hyperbarics; commercial dive operations), and still works as an Attending Emergency Department Physician. Prior, he was at the University of Hawaii’s Hyperbaric Treatment Center, and served as Medical Advisor for Pittsburgh River Rescue, and as a Flight Physician for Stat MedEvac.

Dr. Sanders serves as the tactical medicine physician for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, after spending 8 years diving with the LA County Sheriff conducting search and recovery of bodies and evidence. He is an avid technical (Cave, Wreck, Ice) and scientific diver. He has conducted shark diving & tagging operations and worked as a set medic and water safety coordinator in Hollywood. He is a recognized author and educator in emergency medicine, hyperbaric medicine and diving medicine.