Thursday, April 27, 2023
Mack Burke | Affiliate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. J.D. Polk has already completed greater than most do in a lifetime, however he has
no plans of slowing down.
As NASA’s chief well being and medical officer and a scholar at Oklahoma State College,
he goals to offer the subsequent technology with info vital to the sector of spaceflight.
Regardless of already being triple board-certified as an osteopathic physician, an emergency
medical physician and a flight surgeon specializing in aerospace drugs, Polk determined
so as to add one other set of credentials to his title. He just lately earned a Doctorate of
Schooling in Utilized Academic Research, with an possibility in aviation and house schooling.
Polk efficiently defended his dissertation in October 2022 and graduated in December
2022. His dissertation — “Excessive Case Research Evaluation: Classes for Future Human Spaceflight
Mishap Investigators and Technical Authorities” — brings a brand new stage of dedication
to house analysis and unparalleled experience to OSU’s aviation and house schooling
Dr. Kat Gardner-Vandy, aviation and house assistant professor in addition to Polk’s educational
advisor, mentioned his suggestions may have profound ramifications for the long run
“His dissertation is centered on case examine evaluation and interviews with previous NASA
investigators and technical authorities who have been working firsthand on previous spaceflight
disasters which have resulted in lack of life,” Gardner-Vandy mentioned. “The individuals who
labored on the Challenger and Columbia have nice data, nevertheless it needs to be teased
out or the teachings realized from these occasions perish with the folks.”
Polk’s function at NASA carries immense accountability. He wished to share his findings
with future generations of aerospace management, whether or not they go on to affix NASA or
pursue privatized spaceflight.
“I stored telling myself, ‘I do know what to do, I do know the place the gaps are.’ This was an
alternative to go vector,” Polk mentioned. “I really feel I’ve a ethical and moral accountability.
That is my methodology of succession planning.”
One of the crucial vital points of Polk’s place is overseeing the occupational
well being of staff in any respect NASA places. He supplies waiver authority for present
and former astronauts who stay underneath his care and surveillance after their spaceflight
missions till the time of their dying. In a approach, the Apollo mission remains to be ongoing
regardless of this system formally ending in 1975.
“He’s actually the toughest working particular person I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with.
His dissertation will turn out to be a benchmark and a catalyst for future work. Not simply
for NASA, however the FAA and business spaceflight.”
— Dr. Kat Gardner-Vandy, aviation and house assistant professor
Polk’s group helps put together for human spaceflight alongside the rocket, spacecraft and
plane crews, and all share a purpose of mitigating errors.
“There’s quite a lot of emotional intelligence required in such a task,” Polk mentioned.
“There are occasions while you, sadly, should hold shifting ahead with minimal emotional
NASA’s Orion spacecraft just lately circled the Moon on a flight check with no crew aboard,
splashing down safely on Dec. 12. Future Orion flights to the Moon will embody astronauts
— one thing Polk goals to see by way of.
From an early age, Polk confirmed curiosity in a profession in drugs or aerospace engineering.
He recollects watching the Apollo 13 launch as a toddler.
“I used to be house sick with hen pox and had nothing to do however watch the launch on our
tv — I used to be glued,” he mentioned.
Whereas serving because the chief of Metro Life Flight in Cleveland, Ohio, Polk was a member
of the U.S. Air Power reserves and offered help in search and rescue missions
in addition to help for house shuttle launches. This turned his segue to work for NASA,
first as a flight surgeon after which climbing the ranks to his management function.
“The massive query for me has been ‘How do I educate the subsequent technology of management
in my discipline?’ and pursuing additional schooling of my very own was the reply to that query,”
he mentioned. “It creates the chance to shift to instructing, whether or not that’s in affiliation
with NASA or elsewhere.”
When Ed.D. applications, Polk initially thought a doctorate of schooling was
the pathway, however after discovering OSU’s aerospace and aviation schooling doctoral program,
the choice was a no brainer. Not solely would he get hold of an Ed.D., as was the aspiration,
however it will be accomplished particularly within the discipline that match his ardour with a capability
to tailor this system to his distinctive objectives.
The aviation and house doctoral program is obtainable completely on-line, which was helpful
for his profession and life general, contemplating that he’s primarily based within the Washington, D.C.,
“Not typically, or actually ever, do you see a present excessive stage authorities official changing into
a scholar,” Gardner- Vandy mentioned. “J.D. carried an immense accountability for his analysis.
He was aware of info, information and other people at NASA that different college students aren’t.”
Initially, Polk tried to stay incognito to his fellow college students nevertheless it didn’t
final lengthy. He made a concerted effort to make sure he was simply one other scholar in school,
contributing as was acceptable.
“If he confronted any challenges within the curriculum, although, you wouldn’t understand it,” Gardner-Vandy
mentioned. “J.D. was at all times extremely respectful, desirous to be taught, enthusiastic and acted
with the utmost humility. He’s actually the toughest working particular person I’ve had the pleasure
of interacting with.
“His dissertation will turn out to be a benchmark and a catalyst for future work. Not simply
for NASA, however the FAA and business spaceflight.”
There was an enormous shift in spaceflight lately, and it’s not simply
NASA finishing missions. With an increase in business and personal spaceflight, there
are quite a few classes NASA can train these entities in regard to forensics, pathology
and extra. Many of those classes are already being taught by way of NASA’s place as
an anchor buyer to some new ventures.
For these business and personal vessels, NASA will not be an investigator within the occasion
a mishap happens, however slightly it’s native first responders, coroners and officers who
could also be experiencing such an occasion for the primary time.
What’s distinctive about spaceflight mishaps is that the physics, engineering and in the end,
the causes of dying, are all completely different. Every incidence is a brand new examine carried out to
uncover potential errors and to tell future missions. In lots of cases, specialists
look to aviation findings as plans are made for spaceflight. That is partly resulting from
the truth that from a programs engineering perspective, every car’s assemble, perform
and objective are all particular to the mission at hand and differ between the quite a few
corporations that now exist within the discipline of spaceflight.
“The place you by no means wish to be in is one the place you’ve recognized an error however
didn’t alter plans,” Polk mentioned. “If folks can perceive the ‘Why?’ it’s simpler to
settle for change. There are nuances in schooling that mean you can test competencies.”
Polk’s new schooling credentials will give him the chance to unfold his analysis
He mentioned his subsequent huge profession purpose is to proceed to be precious to NASA till we subsequent
see boots on the moon, which is able to occur as a part of the Artemis missions — after which
so as to add worth for the subsequent group of aerospace leaders.
Polk is presently working towards a graduate certificates in forensic investigative
sciences at OSU and anticipates finishing the coursework in spring 2023.
“This has been so fortuitous, with J.D. desirous about life after NASA,” Gardner-Vandy
mentioned. “This is a chance for continued work and is really only the start of
his subsequent chapter.”
Aviation and house applications inside the Division of Academic Foundations, Management
and Aviation are centered totally on aviation, notably for undergraduate choices.
For extra details about the Faculty of Schooling and Human Sciences’ aviation and
house applications, go to okla.st/osuspace.
Photographs By: Gary Lawson and NASA
Story By: Kirsi McDowell | STATE Journal