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Satcher at Voorhees

Talking together following Voorhees College’s 115th Commencement Convocation Saturday are, from left, Voorhees President Dr. Cleveland Sellers Jr.; Dr. Robert L. Satcher Jr., former NASA astronaut and 1982 Denmark-Olar High School graduate, who served as commencement speaker; and Dr. Leroy Davis, executive director, Center of Excellence in Rural and Minority Health at Voorhees.

DENMARK — Former NASA astronaut Dr. Robert L. Satcher Jr. advised Voorhees College graduates Saturday to “get out of your comfort zone.”

Nearly 100 graduates received their degrees at Voorhees’ 115th Commencement Convocation on May 12 in the Leonard E. Dawson Health and Human Resources Center.

“Have faith in God; have faith in yourself. Get out of your comfort zone and take a chance,” Satcher told them. “We all gather a set of constricting habits around us that trap us in a zone of supposed comfort — well below what our potential would allow us to attain. Pretty soon, such habits slip below the level of our consciousness, but they still determine what we think that we can and cannot do and what we cannot even bring ourselves to try.

“As long as you let these habits rule you, you’ll be stuck in a rut. So take a chance.”

Satcher said getting out of his comfort zone enabled him to successfully participate in space flights.

“It’s the last 15 seconds of countdown that was my greatest concern. After 15 seconds, it’s a ‘no turn-around’ time when it’s all ‘go’ nonstop,” he said.

A 1982 graduate of Denmark-Olar High School, Satcher was selected by NASA in May 2004 to be an astronaut candidate. In February 2006, he completed astronaut candidate training that included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in shuttle and International Space Station systems, physiological training, T-38 flight training and water and wilderness survival training.

Satcher flew on STS-129 in November 2009, and logged more than 259 hours in space, including 12 hours and 19 minutes in two extra-vehicular activities outside spacecraft.

He left NASA in September 2011, and is currently on staff as a surgical oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

Satcher has previously served as an assistant professor in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. He also held an appointment as an attending physician in orthopaedic surgery at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Ill., specializing in musculoskeletal oncology, as well as an adjunct appointment in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Northeastern University School of Engineering.

Satcher received a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1986; a doctor of philosophy in chemical engineering from MIT in 1993 and a doctor of medicine degree from Harvard Medical School in 1994. Satcher completed his internship and residency in orthopaedic surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, in 2000; postdoctoral research fellowships at MIT in 1994 and the University of California, Berkeley in 1998; and a fellowship in musculoskeletal oncology at the University of Florida in 2001.

He is a member of various organizations including: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; Musculoskeletal Tumor Society; American Academy of Cancer Research; Connective Tissue Oncology Society; National Medical Association; Society of Black Academic Surgeons; Doctors United in Medical Missions; National Comprehensive Cancer Network; Orthopaedic Research Society; MIT Alumni Association; Black Alumni at MIT; and Harvard Alumni Association.

Satcher is married to the former D’Juanna O. White, MPH, MD, of New York, N.Y., and they have two children.

Voorhees College President Dr. Cleveland Sellers Jr. presided over Saturday’s commencement.

Emmanuel Nwokocha, a native of Nigeria and first academic honor graduate, gave an address. Nwokocha earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in environmental science. Wayne Davidson of Yonkers, N.Y., second academic honor graduate, also spoke. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting. In addition, Mary Moule, chairwoman of the Voorhees College Board of Trustees, addressed the convocation.

Contact the writer: j_durgan@att.net.

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