Our Team

The ad astra vita project founder – Dr Rowena Christiansen

Dr Rowena Christiansen
MB BS, BA Hons, LLB, MEmergHealth, MBA, DCH, GradDipEd, GradDipDisasterMed, ACCAM, GradCertDisasterMed, GradCertSpaceStudies, FAsMA, ISU SH-SSP16

On patrol checking a very hypothermic casualty

Dr Rowena Christiansen is proud to be the founder of the ad astra vita space life sciences project and the Space Health Symposium, and now one of the Founders of ASBX2021 (The 3rd Australian Space Biology x Health Summit). She has a lifelong passionate interest in astronomy and space exploration. Rowena established this initiative in the context of the entrepreneurial emphasis of the new Australian Space Agency. She hopes that promoting open access to information, resources, and outreach activities about aerospace medicine (and medicine in extreme and austere environments) will raise awareness both locally and internationally, promote networking and collaboration, and lead to more linkages and partnerships. The project is also able to facilitate space life sciences projects, education and outreach.

At the ISU SH-SSP16 “United Nations” debate
representing the Kingdom of Norway

Rowena herself has a diverse background. After a first career as as a lawyer, management consultant, and small business owner/operator, she qualified as a physician. Rowena works as a small group facilitator and assessor in the Melbourne Medical School teaching human physiology and clinical practice skills, and as a pre-hospital emergency doctor. She is a Fellow of Ormond College at the University of Melbourne. Rowena has undertaken post-graduate training in emergency medicine and critical care, women and children’s health, aviation medicine and space studies, disaster health, and emergency management. She pursues special interests in aerospace medicine, extreme environments and wilderness medicine, and is currently undertaking research related to expeditionary medicine.

Working as a pre-hospital emergency response doctor

In particular, Rowena is passionate about space medicine education, outreach, and research, and mentors medical students interested in space medicine. She was the Dux of the International Space University Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program in 2016, and is proud to be the recipient of the 2019-20 Aeromedical Society of Australasia Professional Development Scholarship to assist her attendance at the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) Annual Scientific Meeting. Rowena served two years as the Chair of the AsMA Associate Fellows Group (2018-2020). In mid-2020 she was honoured to be elected as a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association. Rowena was very excited to be selected for the 2021 European Space Agency virtual Space Physician Training Course.

Her voluntary memberships include the Space Life Sciences Committee of the Australasian Society for Aerospace Medicine, and Executive Committee positions within the Space Medicine Association, the Space Surgery Association, and the Aerospace Physiology Society. In May 2021, Rowena was elected to the Council of the Aerospace Medical Association. She is also a Director of the Mars Society Australia, Chair of the Australian Ski Patrol Association Medical Advisory Committee, a volunteer ski patroller, a member representative on the Australian Resuscitation Council, and inaugural Treasurer for the Australasian Wilderness and Expedition Medicine Society. She is also a member of the Women in Space Chapter of the National Space Society of Australia, and a reviewer for Acta Astronautica.

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Rowena supported the public health response in educational (the “SURGE Project”) and community organisation advisory roles. She is a member of the Group for Earth Observations Health Community of Practice COVID-19 working group, and has participated in research on COVID-19 and seasonality.

Rowena is proud to have been selected as an Australian Space Awards Finalist for 2020 (Academic of the Year) and 2021 (Rising Star of the Year and Female Leader of the Year). At the 2021 Aerospace Medical Association in Denver, Colorado, she received the 2020-21 Chair’s Award for Outstanding Service from the AsMA Associate Fellows Group, and the 2020-21 President’s Award from the Aerospace Physiology Society.

Rowena is a strong advocate for STEAM education, gender equality and human rights. She holds appointments as the Research Director for Health Law for the Jus Ad Astra human rights in space project, and as a UNOOSA Space4Women Mentor for 2021-21.

Rowena is an amateur musician, chorister and percussionist, and time permitting, enjoys building space-themed LEGO pieces. She also enjoys photography, cooking Indian food, and learning about languages and culture. As a result of the 2020 Space Health Symposium, she also enjoys delving into video creation and editing.

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