Flight Surgeon

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by Exar Ganis, Apr 18, 2008.

  1. Exar Ganis

    Exar Ganis Member

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    Hello all. While many members here want to strive to become a fighter pilot, I find the idea of becoming a flight surgeon fairly interesting. Is Aviation Medicine a post B.S. program given through the School of Aerospace Medicine, or is there a pre-medical program that can be earned through the academy to prepare you for that MS/MD program in the future? The option of becoming a pilot-physician also sounds interesting; its like two careers meshed into one, but I know that field is the most difficult to pursue. One hour one can be a pilot as a main assignment, then fulfill clinical duties by screening patients. Of course if the option actually came up, I think being either a pilot or surgeon is by far enough.

    Basic Requirements for those also interested

    Post Academy & ROTC:

    *Graduate of Aerospace Medicine Primary Course, and
    *Unrestricted medical license, and
    *Awarded Air Force Specialty Code 48XX (Not sure what this is yet)
     
  2. RetNavyHM

    RetNavyHM USN (RET)

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    To be a flight surgeon (FS) you must first be a physician, which requires going to medical school. Flight surgery is a residency program.

    The glamorous side that you mention is not the reality of being an FS. The reality is that the clinical side will take precedence. Having worked with FS's during my 19 year career I can tell you that getting flight hours can be difficult. Speaking from a Navy standpoint (and I'm sure KP2001 will be more than happy to expound on this or correct as necessary), all the FS's I worked with who were assigned to single seat aircraft squadrons (A-4's, F/A-18's, AV-8B's) never flew them. They would get their flight hours with helos or multi-seat aircraft.

    Most of the time, my FS's would get 4 to 6 hours of flight time a month. To get more was abnormal.

    You do get to work closely with a small group of folks, and you will get to know them well. When the squadron deploys, you deploy with them. If the squadron is doing workups out on a ship or at a remote airfield, you will deploy with them. At the remote airfields you will be working out of a cruise box, usually in a closet that the squadron hasn't taken over. If you are lucky, and your corpsman is on the ball and has a close relationship with the maintenance chief, you'll get a small office, and if you are with the USMC you may even get your own tent to work out of! Whee!!!

    You have to want to be a physician first. If you don't want to be a physician, look elsewhere. Your primary job is as a physician. Your patients will always come first. Flying is secondary, and really doesn't happen that much.
     
  3. kp2001

    kp2001 USMMA Alumnus

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    Your first line was exactly what I was going to say. EG missed the whole get accepted to medical school and graduate part before doing any of this. You were actually lucky enough to work with Naval flight surgeons so they actually got to fly (backseat/2nd stick), the Air Force and Army actually have different programs and their flight doc's don't go to any flight school, just a aviation medicine part and they usually don't fly that much. In the navy we are required to get 4hrs of flight time a month in order to keep our bonus and most barely get that, especially in the single seat squadrons.

    EG also brings up another program in his post: the pilot-physician program. If you notice here "pilot" is first. The difference here is that a person needs to be both a pilot and a physician. Usually this is reserved for prior aviators who go on to medical school. I'm not sure about the Army, but the Air Force definately has this program and the Navy has one intermittently. In the Air Force these guys will usually alternate assignments so one tour they are a pilot and the next they are a physician. I have met on LtCol who is in this program and is what I would consider a hard charger. He was in Afghanistan and was not considered 'medical' per Geneva conventions as he flew combat missions with the special ops guys.

    Difficult program to get in to, if you want to do it you have to do medical school first.
     
  4. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    I am currently in pursuit of the Flight doc and pilot-physician programs. Bullet hooked me up with a Flight doc at seymour-johnson. So, I'm getting myself ready for the MCATs and apps for med schools.
     
  5. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    OK

    This will be a long post and it comes from a AF flyers wife who has dealt with flight docs for @20 yrs!

    FIRST OF ALL...EACH AND EVERYONE I HAVE MET ARE BEYOND THE WORDS AMAZING

    Some things to think about and realize...(hornetguy back me up here), it is not an easy path to get in! You first must be pilot qual and you must be the top of the top of your class to get into the med school.

    Second, your 1st job is to be a doc, you do not have flight hr mins as do other flyers.

    Third, it is a 24/7 job. Flight Docs are assigned and fly with particular squadrons. They have a close relationship with the flyer and their family, so close that when medical issues occur the flyer will call them (they are on the recall roster). Realize that there are 50+ flyers in every squadron. Flight docs also are on call for all of the squadrons on a rotational basis.

    The flight docs in our life have been there for us, during off hours for the following sits: Adult chicken pox, Medical injury due to Wing ER response, Copperhead Snake bite, and physical injury after hours. MOST FLYERS WILL CALL THE DOC BEFORE GOING TO ER...multiply that by 200 flyers if you are on call!

    Do not enter the flight doc world unless you want to be Marcus Welby MD, or a doc that likes to do house calls.

    Flight Docs are loved by every AD flyer and family member, they are our personal doc, and care about us as patients and friends!

    If the thought of flying drives you, then remember in the AF world, you will spend more time checking runny noses, baby wells and yr flight physicals than you will fly!

    On the flip side, I personally know a flight surgeon who was able to go and become an ORTHO specialist, an OB/GYN that became the Chief, and another who was the flight surgeon for NASA for their alternate landing areas
     
  6. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    I can back you up indeed. We've whittled down a good 100 wannabe docs here to about 20-30 in less than two semesters. The fail rate for organic chemistry is about 1/3 (1/2 for D and below). That class is the key to the medical school admissions office for USAFA cadets.
     
  7. justawife

    justawife Founding Member

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    There are some flight docs who really don't fly too. The A-10 and UAVs don't have back seats or any seats.

    Our flight Doc from Eielson is one of the few who went to UPT after his first tour as a flight doc. He is now at Edwards. I am not sure how may Doc/pilots there are but it is less than 20. Most flight Docs don't stay flight docs for a career. Most who make it a career in the AF do so in a speciality. At our first base Torrejon we had 4 FS, one has become a radiologist, another anesthelogist and the last orthopedist. The head FS, the only one who didn't specialize just retired ('06) as Surgeon General of the AF.

    It is a great job. A flight doc delivered my son at Luke (not all do that). I know at the end of our tour at Eielson Rob was ready to not be on call of the 18th FS.
     
  8. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    So many options, that's what I love. I will be trying to get the pilot-physician spot for fighters or bombers, but I understand the chances aren't so hot. Next choice is flight doc for two seater fighters (strike eagle, bullet would be proud!). If all else fails, I REALLY want to specialize in anesthesiology. Only time will tell. Shoot for the stars, but even the moon can't be beat!
     
  9. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Our base hospital is named after a flight surgeon who actually was also a pilot...Bullet will be home soon and can give more direct info.

    As Hornet stated, Bullet went to our flight doc and asked him to guide/assist hornetguy... This was what I mean that they are amazing...they truly are the most selfless people I have ever met.

    I feel for non-flyers b/c they are in the "pool", whereas our flight docs have stayed late, accepted calls at night, called between patients to check on a family member (daughter with snake bite at county hospital), do not go into this field unless you want this. The 1x a week flying is not worth it, I guess that is why they are so unbelievable...I can't say enough about how many times they were there for us!
     
  10. Exar Ganis

    Exar Ganis Member

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    Thank you all for the information. Hornet guy: Can I ask what you are currently majoring in at the AFA, and perhaps mention a few important classes that should be taken for this option. The AFA admissions pamphlet lists biology, chemistry, physics, and behavioral science as outlined majors that I think would be very helpful for any kind of pre medical program. Thanks.
     
  11. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    I am a Biochemistry major. You are required to have 2 semesters of organic chem lecture (1 semester of lab) and 1 semester of biology. Any major is fine, and these days med schools look favorably on a variety of majors, you just have to take the required classes. I might add that in the past, 100% of qualified biochem majors have been accepted to med school.
     
  12. Exar Ganis

    Exar Ganis Member

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    Hornetguy,

    Is there a particular class standing that you must have in order to be eligible for medical school programs? I keep hearing different numbers and paths, but I'm not exactly sure what the Air Force specifically requires.
     
  13. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    You need a minimum 3.3 GPA (realistically a 3.7). So, not necessarily class rank, but a high GPA.
     

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