Military Aviation Medicine
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- Military aviation medicine
Militaries around the world train and employ specialized physicians who uphold aeromedical standards and ensure all aircrew and controllers are fit for flight. In the United States, these unique doctors are called flight surgeons.
Although this misnomer (flight surgeons are seldom credentialed surgeons) dates back to the very origin of the profession during WWI, the profession is anything but static. Keeping pace with today’s high-tempo & complex military mission, the competent flight surgeon is expected to fully appreciate how new technologies and mission demands will affect the health and fitness of his patients. In addition to serving as primary care providers for aircrew, controllers, other specialized career fields and their families; the active duty flight doc fulfills a variety of other roles not typical for a medical doctor.
In addition to spending time in the flight medicine clinic diagnosing and treating routine disease and injury, flight surgeons also split their time fulfilling roles as rated aircrew, public health official, occupational medicine liaison, and human factors expert. As clinical physicians, military flight docs see patients like other primary care providers, but must also apply their knowledge of aeromedical science to their patients’ complaints. As rated aircrew, since WWII flight surgeons have been expected to spend time flying and conducting operational missions with their active duty patients in order to better understand the physiological stressors and hazards they face. As public health providers, flight surgeons assist with inspections of local food vendors and also ensure potability of water. As occupational and preventive medicine liaisons, flight surgeons routinely visit various industrial shops in an attempt to identify and subsequently address occupational hazards before injury occurs. Lastly, as human factors experts and safety officers, military flight surgeons are frequently consulted to serve on mishap investigation boards and brief aircrew regarding pertinent aeromedical topics.