MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Gabrielle Birchak-Birkman, JPL, (818) 393-4359
Michael Braukus, NASA Headquarters,
Washington, DC, (202) 358-1979
Herman Bank, Volunteer Professionals for Medical
Advancement (626) 791-3748
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASESeptember 26, 2000
SEASONED SPACE VETS CONTINUE TO MAKE MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS
You can take the rocket scientists into retirement, but you
can't turn off the inventive skills retired NASA professionals
carry with them. Retired engineers and scientists who helped make
history at the dawn of the Space Age are now applying their
skills to the world of medicine.
These enterprising space veterans from NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA, are now helping doctors and
patients with expertise forged in the world of space technology.
"We may look like seniors, but our professional skills are
still in high gear and our creativity never dies," said Herman
Bank, space engineering veteran and founder and director of
Volunteer Professionals for Medical Advancement. He and his
brainy 65- to-85-year-old retired NASA colleagues, Bank said,
"are just too young to retire."
By working with Volunteer Professionals for Medical
Advancement these retirees from the JPL donate some of their
time to work closely with doctors and other medical professionals
to brainstorm, research and develop new medical technologies. The
organization's purpose is to provide hospitals with free services
that such facilities could otherwise not afford. The hospitals,
in turn, find that with the retired space professionals, they get
top-notch brainpower and reliable assistance. The accomplishments
of this retiree organization have brought its members state and
The group has been responsible for a number of medical
* Preliminary design of an automated oxygen enrichment system for
premature babies. Working with Los Angeles County/USC Medical
Center, retired volunteers and doctors are working to remove the
inaccuracies of manually controlled oxygen systems, which can
affect the infant's eyesight, brain and lung development.
* Solving a blood clot problem found with a stent that could
cause heart attacks. Retired professional volunteers introduced a
special electropolishing process to provide a super-smooth stent
surface. The electropolishing process, developed in the aerospace
industry, is not well known by doctors. The resulting
electropolished stent practically eliminated further blood clot
formation with the device.
* Creation of an advanced-database private computer network for
pediatricians. Working with Childrens Hospital Los Angeles,
retired professionals are helping pediatricians nationwide to
correspond about children's illnesses using JPL's method of data
management. This database will provide a depository for
historical data of diagnoses, research, treatments and results.
Doctors estimate that extended medical use of the computer
database systems could reduce health care costs by 20 to 30
With each project, these retirees find that the rewards are
numerous. "Results of the project clearly show that volunteers
have made major contributions to medical advancement," said Bank.
"Doctors and hospital staff are very appreciative of this
volunteer professional assistance, which they can seldom find or
afford." He went on to note, "Retired professionals find
interest and satisfaction in challenges which do not interfere
with retirement activities."
Bank said that as a young man, he always wanted to go into
the field of medicine. Unable to afford medical school at the
time, he decided to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering and
found himself at JPL. Bank proves that it's never too late to
pursue one's aspirations. "I decided that after doing 20 years of
space I wanted to do something here on Earth to advance
medicine," said Bank.
Embarking on their 10th year as an organization, these
retirees are looking forward to future challenges in medicine
which includes encouraging other retired engineers and scientists
to look for volunteer consulting opportunities. "The expansion
of this activity nationally should help medical advancement
considerably without cost, while using a skilled manpower
resource," said Bank.
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology