Spotlight on Health

Dr. Jesse Zroback is in the finals to be one of Canada’s next astronauts

By Danielle Milley, OMA Public Affairs

Dr. Jesse Zroback credits his training in medicine for preparing him for an opportunity of a lifetime.

The Kenora-based family physician is one of 17 finalists vying to be one of two new astronauts in Canada. The successful candidates will be announced at the end of June, after a year of applications and in-person tests and evaluations.

“The process has been really fulfilling. Being an astronaut is something a lot of us dream about but the opportunities are so rare,” he said. “I am grateful to have had the chance to explore this opportunity, regardless of the outcome.”

Growing up in Kenora, medicine wasn’t always on Dr. Zroback’s mind but half way through his chemical engineering degree at the University of Waterloo, he was having a discussion with a friend about ways they could have a meaningful impact with their careers and medicine came up.

“With medicine you have the ability to work in the best interest of the person right in front you,” he said.

Dr Zroback

He always had an interest in the human body through his interest in sports and after taking courses in human physiology, he decided to attend the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. He planned on going into family medicine because, as he explained, he grew up in Kenora where family physicians served many roles so that was the idea of a doctor in his head. Now that he has been practicing for three years, he knows he made the right decision.

“There is a lot of variety as a rural family doctor,” he said. “We can work in emerg or in a clinic. Sometimes we have the opportunity to treat a whole family and the continuity of care is really rewarding.”

There are difficulties to working in rural and northern settings, but Dr. Zroback has embraced them. He worked for just over two years in Marathon, Ontario and then decided to take on locums (temporary placements) in Kenora, Red Lake, Dryden and even Dawson City, Yukon, to get to experience medicine in a number of different communities.

While medicine became his calling later in life, space travel was always a dream.

“Ever since the age of two, my mom says I wanted to go to the moon,” he said. “So becoming an astronaut has been a lifelong aspiration but opportunities do not come up that often.”

Opportunity knocked in June 2016 and Dr. Zroback has been working hard to make his childhood dream come true. He’s been put through physical, academic and mental tests as the group of candidates went from an initial applicant pool of 3,772 down to 72, 32 and now just 17.

No matter what the results, Dr. Zroback is grateful he had the opportunity and if he isn’t one of the final two, he knows he has a great career ahead of him as a doctor.

“It’s been a wonderful experience to come back to my hometown and serve the people I grew up with,” he said. “Being a doctor is rewarding. I’m trusted to closely learn a patient’s story and work with them to have an impact on their lives. I really feel it’s a privilege to be involved in people’s lives that way.”

Dr. Zroback is grateful for all the support he’s received from his family, friends and the communities he’s lived in throughout his life.

“I encourage everyone to follow their dreams – you never know what path it will lead you down.”

This article originally appeared in our monthly e-newsletter, Spotlight on Health.
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Posted on May 30, 2017 in newsletter

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