An orthopedic surgeon hopes to forge new ground in medical research by taking his mission to the heavens.
Robert Satcher Jr., 38, who specializes in bone cancer at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, has been chosen as one of two physicians in a class of 11 NASA candidates for space travel. Satcher will relocate to Houston this fall to begin his three- to five-year basic training.
In space, Satcher hopes to research the effects of weightlessness on bone loss and look into ways of preserving bone mass in low-gravity conditions. "I see this as a progression of what I've been doing," he says. "Building upon what I've been able to do as an orthopedic surgeon and researcher and scientist."
Exactly where he will be going is still open, but NASA foresees the 11 candidates fulfilling the new mission of establishing a base on the moon and a manned mission to Mars.
Satcher has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a medical degree from Harvard University School of Medicine and comes from a family thick with M.D.s. His uncle is former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher.
During Satcher's leave of absence from Northwestern, practicing medicine would become his "secondary occupation," he says. "I haven't worked out all the details, but right now I'm focusing on being an astronaut because it's something I've looked forward to all my life-since I was a little kid really," Satcher says.
The other physician among the 11 astronauts is Tom Marshburn, 43, a flight surgeon at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The drywall is fixed
In what sounds like an episode of "The Sopranos," a federal prosecutor in New York thinks he's got the goods on the mob for shaking down a major hospital construction project.
In a 225-page criminal indictment, U.S. Attorney David Kelley charged 22 defendants, including 12 members and associates of the Genovese crime family, with 83 counts of racketeering, fraud, extortion, tax evasion and labor law violations relating to their alleged control of the drywall industry there. The alleged wise guys are charged with rigging bids and paying and accepting bribes involving contracts for applying drywall in a number of public and private construction projects, including a 1999 expansion of 627-bed Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn.
The government charged that from 1999 through 2001, leaders in the Genovese family, who controlled a carpenters union local, allowed selected contractors to illegally employ nonunion workers on union jobs, pay workers off the books, fail to pay union-scale wages and withhold taxes and employee benefits.
In exchange, the family leaders allegedly collected payments from real estate developers and some of the indicted contractors and failed to collect union dues. The mob also allegedly embezzled from the pension and welfare funds. The indictment charged that alleged Genovese capo Louis Moscatiello Sr. was the brains behind the drywall scheme.
The government has charged no one from Kings County Hospital with wrongdoing in the case, nor is it the target in the investigation, sources at the U.S. attorney's office confirmed. In a news release Kings County spokesman Peter Griffith says the hospital, which is owned by the nation's largest municipal health system, New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., is cooperating in the investigation. "Because this is a pending legal matter, the hospital is unable to provide any further information," he says.
Maybe a pasta plant next?
Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Avera Health is diversifying its investments, and it's no small tomatoes.
The system, which has more than 100 hospitals, clinics and nursing homes, has invested in a gigantic hydroponic facility for tomatoes in O'Neill, Neb., that will produce 100,000 pounds of the fruit per week.
Last fall, Avera's board approved a policy to invest up to 2% of the system's pooled investment fund annually in community development projects that meet certain criteria. The 439,000-square-foot tomato farm is the first such investment.
Avera President and CEO John Porter wrote in a missive to employees that while investments can be risky, Avera has set strict limits on how much of its pooled savings can be used for community development projects. The amount invested in any one project cannot exceed $250,000 or 20% of the company's total capitalization.
"Good stewardship demands that we safeguard those funds by keeping them in securities with a guaranteed return," he wrote. "But if we are to sustain our long tradition of serving the health needs of rural communities, we must understand that the survival of rural hospitals depends on the economic vitality of the community".
Porter said the system is investing in companies that are likely to be successful, provide jobs with fair and just wages, practice nondiscriminatory policies and are environmentally responsible.
If you are looking for the tomatoes at the grocery, they carry the Sunset label.