Robert Lee Satcher Jr., a specialist in child and adult bone cancer, a chemical engineer, and astronaut was born on September 22, 1965, in Hampton, Virginia, to Robert Lee Satcher, from Coffee County, Alabama, and the president of Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia and Marian Hanna Satcher from in Calhoun County, Alabama and a graduate of Alabama State University. Robert Jr. had three siblings, Serena Maria Satcher, a physician, Rodney Levi Satcher, and Robin Leon Satcher.
Robert Satcher’s early education began in Corvallis, Oregon, and later at Hampton University laboratory school and Spratley Middle School in Hampton; moving with his family to Denmark, South Carolina, in 1978, he graduated valedictorian from predominantly black Denmark Olar High School in 1982.
Satcher then enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1986 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Chemical Engineering in 1993. His formal education was continued at Harvard University Medical School, thus earning his Doctor of Medical degree in 1994. His residency was fulfilled in 2000 at the University of California, San Francisco.
Robert Satcher and D’Juanna Oweta White, a pediatrician, were married on June 28, 1997, at First Presbyterian Church in Mt. Vernon, New York, and are the parents of a daughter and son.
After the completion of Dr. Satcher’s fellowship in musculoskeletal oncology at the University of Florida in 2001, he accepted an assistant professorship at The Feinberg School of Medicine Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and also served as an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.
Dr. Satcher also joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and completed astronaut candidate training during this period. In 2009, he became the first orthopedic oncologist to orbit the earth on the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the first Black male astronaut physician to serve as the crew’s medical doctor during the STS-129 NASA Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station. During the mission, Satcher was active in two spacewalks for 12 hours and 19 minutes of EVA as the mission comprised 4.5 million miles of travel in 171 orbits. In addition, he repaired ISS equipment, including two robotic arms on the space station’s exterior and installed an antenna to improve satellite communication and file Twitter updates from orbit.
In 2011 Satcher was named a surgical oncologist and assistant professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The following year, in 2012, he presented the commencement address at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, at which point he was awarded an honorary doctorate. That same year, He also received an honorary doctorate from Saint Paul’s College.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, Satcher was the keynote speaker at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Dental Medicine Class Day. It was a virtual presentation.
Dr. Robert Lee Satcher Jr., who has penned numerous book chapters and articles in peer-reviewed journals, also authored “How Intraoperative Navigation is Changing Musculoskeletal Tumor Surgery” in Orthopedic Clinics of North America.