Flight surgeon

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A flight surgeon is a military medical officer assigned to duties in the clinical field known as aviation medicine or flight medicine. (Although the term "flight surgery" is considered improper by purists, it may occasionally be encountered.[1])

Flight surgeons are medical doctors, either MDs or DOs who are primarily responsible for the medical evaluation, certification and treatment of aviation personnel — e.g., pilots, astronauts, air traffic controllers, UAV operators and other aircrew members. They perform routine, periodic medical examinations ("flight physicals") of these personnel. In the U.S military, flight surgeons are trained to fill general public health and occupational and preventive medicine roles, and are only infrequently "surgeons" in an operating theater sense. Flight surgeons are typically on flight status (i.e., they log flight hours), but are not required to be rated or licensed pilots. They may be called upon to provide medical consultation as members of an investigation board into an aviation mishap. Occasionally, they may serve to provide in-flight care to patients being evacuated via aeromedical evacuation, either fixed or rotary wing.

The civilian equivalent of the flight surgeon is the Aviation Medical Examiner . Though some civilian AMEs have training similar to that of military Flight Surgeons, most are significantly less well-trained. This is not a criticism of civilian AMES, as many are extremely well-trained, highly experienced, and some are pilots, but it is possible to be certified as an AME having only sat through a 4-5 day lecture course in some countries.



The term “flight surgeon” originated in the early months of 1918 when the U.S. Air Medical Service of the U.S. Army collaborated with two civilian aviation organizations — the Aero Club of America and the Aerial League of America — to manage problems of medical screening and standards for U.S. military aviators.[2][3] The term is especially associated with Col. (later Brig. Gen.) Theodore C. Lyster (the first Chief Surgeon, Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps) and with Maj. Isaac H. Jones. These two officers proposed the organization of a “Care of the Flier” unit in June 1918.[4]

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