Former astronaut Rhea Seddon, MD, a graduate of the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), will be inducted in the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Oct. 26. The event is part of the 12th Annual Economic Summit for Women, which is being held in partnership with the Vision 2020 National Congress at the Nashville Airport Marriott.
“It is such an honor to be selected as one of the women being inducted into the 2015 Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame,” Dr. Seddon said. “I hope that the recognition of my accomplishments and those of my fellow inductees will serve as encouragement to other women to use their own particular talents for the betterment of our state and nation.”
Founded in 2010, the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame has recognized and honored the achievements of women who have contributed to the cultural, economic and political well-being of Tennessee. Women inducted have demonstrated support for the advancement of women, success in their business or profession, and a passion for community service and engagement.
Eight women representing the western, middle, and eastern divisions of Tennessee will be honored at this year’s ceremony. Along with Dr. Seddon, they are Janice Holder, first female Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court; Zulfat Suara, cultural role model and activist; Rosetta Miller-Perry, civil rights activist and founder of The Tennessee Tribune; Joy Bishop, former senior executive service civilian in the U.S. Air Force; Carol Gardner Transou, a founder of the Women’s Fund of East Tennessee; as well as two posthumous inductees, Lizzie Crozier French, founder of the Knoxville Female Institute and the School of Elocution; and Elizabeth Rona, former teacher at the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies. Past inductees have included political activist Inez Crutchfield and Pat Summitt, head coach emeritus of the Lady Vols.
Dr. Seddon set the precedent of inspiring women early in her career. In 1975, she was one of the first women accepted into the general surgery residency at UTHSC. She was one of the first six female astronaut candidates selected by NASA in January 1978. She enrolled in the astronaut program, and became an astronaut in August 1979. She went on to spend 19 years with NASA, completing three space shuttle flights (’85, ’91, ’93), and logging a total of 30 days in space.
After her career with NASA, Dr. Seddon spent 11 years serving as the assistant chief medical officer at the Vanderbilt Medical Group in Nashville. During that time, she was instrumental in pioneering an initiative that began use of Crew Resource Management, an aviation-based model in which training procedure guidelines are used in environments where human error can have disastrous consequences.
Actively involved in motivating young women to study in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, Dr. Seddon is now self-employed with LifeWings Partners, LLC, where she continues to teach leadership, focusing on patient safety in health care institutions throughout the United States. She lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with her husband, retired astronaut Hoot Gibson.
Sheila Champlin, assistant vice chancellor for Communications and Marketing at UTHSC, and Amber Carter, publications coordinator, nominated Dr. Seddon for membership in the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame.
“I had the honor of working with Dr. Seddon in 2011 when she served as the keynote speaker for the UTHSC Centennial Gala,” Champlin said. “When I heard the call for nominees for this award, Dr. Seddon immediately came to mind. She is truly a groundbreaking role model and an inspirational Tennessee woman.”