Dual-qualified in medicine and law, with several post-graduate discipline studies, Rowena is now teaching human physiology and clinical medical practice in the Melbourne Medical School, and primarily practises in pre-hospital emergency care and medicine in extreme and austere environments.
She is a member of the Australian Space Agency Space Medicine and Life Sciences Technical Advisory Group and a passionate aerospace medicine advocate, educator, and research collaborator.
What organisation / startup did you found?
I founded "the ad astra vita project" and I currently work for the University of Melbourne Medical School.
What is its noble purpose? The purpose of the philanthropic ad astra vita project is three-fold: (1) to develop a living online compendium of people engaged with space medicine and life sciences; (2) to develop an online resources portal for medicine in extreme and austere environments and provide education and outreach activities; and (2) establish a pro bono space health consultancy matching service.
Tell us about the first 10 years of your life?
I first became interested in space through the lens of my grandfather's telescope in the back yard. I was also inspired by the achievements of the Apollo era and the egalitarian vision of "Star Trek: The Original Series". I decided that I wanted to be an astronaut at a young age, and I have never lost the desire to contribute to the space sector in some way.
What age were you when you had your first paying job? What was it? It was probably a holiday job the first time I went to university. I did a variety of table service and administrative jobs.
What made you want to be a Doctor and what specialty did you choose? Why? I studied biology, chemistry, physics and maths at high school and was always interested in how the complex machinery that is the human body works. I also had a desire to help people and to try to make a difference.
I have a wide range of interests in medicine, especially in the emergency/pre-hospital arena, but my passion area is space medicine.
What made you want to be an Entrepreneur or follow an alternative route? When exactly did you decide?
It is my second time being an entrepreneur. I started the ad astra vita project as I felt there was a gap that needed to be filled.
Are you still practicing as a Doctor now? If yes, do you intend to stop if the organisation or project takes off?
Yes, but mainly as a medical educator with a bit of pre-hospital work. I devote a lot of my time to voluntary organisations and to working for free in aerospace medicine and space medicine in particular.
I have a career aspiration to be one of Australia's first space physicians, but hope that the ad astra vita project can eventually become self-sustaining as more people decide to contribute to it.
Why do you think traditionally many Doctors struggle with entrepreneurship? Or at least they are perceived to?
Having also been a lawyer and small business proprietor and having done an MBA, I think the reason is that you need training to understand business and finance and marketing, and these are not skills that most medical professionals will have.
What is your favourite quote?
"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing".
What would you do in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse?
Volunteer for a zombie-free one-way mission to Mars.
You can find out more about "ad astra vita" here: