The Exchange

Commentary and Observations from
the Medical Front Lines

The Sky Isn’t the Limit for This PA

The Sky Isn’t the Limit for This PA

Hayley Arceneaux, PA-C, is anything but ordinary. At the age of 10, she already had her black belt in Taekwondo. Then she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of her leg; this required chemotherapy and a complicated prosthesis that could "grow" with her, because the tumor involved the entire knee and extended past the distal femoral growth plate. She was treated at St Jude Children's Research Hospital and through that experience became hooked on studying medicine. A video of her at the time shows her crying because of the pain while having her prosthesis lengthened, and then when the procedure is over, she hops off the table. She is seen wearing a NASA T-shirt, a souvenir from a family vacation to NASA in Houston that got her brother, now an aerospace engineer, inspired to design rockets.

Arceneaux's cancer and prosthesis didn't stop her adventurous spirit. She traveled the globe, rode camels, zip-lined, and bungee-jumped. These adventures, and many more, are chronicled on her social media pages. As an undergraduate, she studied biology and Spanish, with a goal of treating a Latino patient population. She was admitted to, and graduated from, LSU School of Allied Health Shreveport PA School; took a position at the hospital where she had been treated as a child; and was back at St Jude's in Memphis, working with patients with leukemia and lymphoma.

That is where she was when she got first a vague email and a request to participate in a conference call with SpaceX, when she was asked: "Would you like to be launched into orbit around the Earth?"

And with that call, PA Arceneaux started spending the rest of the year preparing for this mission. In late 2021—at the age of 29—she will be the youngest person ever launched into space. She will also be a member of the first all-civilian crew, the first person with an artificial joint, the first cancer survivor, and the first PA to go into orbit. And I'm certain I've missed a few firsts.

As I watch her videos, I see a passionate, intelligent individual with a magnetic personality. To say that she will represent the profession well is a monumental understatement.


Filed under: Miscellaneous, NPs & PAs

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