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Flight Surgeon Course

kedhegard

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Sep 24, 2003
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  1. Fellow [Any Field]
    Hi.

    Can anybody tell me anything about the Army flight surgeons course? All I can find about it is the dates it is offered. What are the benefits? Do you have to do your residency in something specific? I plan on doing family medicine, is that acceptable? Is there an added time commitment?

    Thanks for any info.
     

    pilotdoc

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      The Army's flight surgeon course is six weeks long, classroom stuff, with orientation flights on the various aircraft, simulator time in the various aircraft, and altitude chamber training. Your residency doesn't matter. Aerospace medicine residency is a whole different thing. Once you are a flight surgeon, you can try to get on flight status where you are at (although I don't think you can do it during residency) and get some flight pay (and deploy - almost all of the flight docs at Fort Rucker deployed when Operation Iraqi Freedom started).
      I don't think there is any "additional" obligation, although there may be a one year committment that is served concurrently with any other obligations you have.
       
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      pilotdoc

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        Well, it really all depends - being a flight surgeon doesn't mean that is your full-time job, just an extra qualification. This is different from the Residency in Aerospace Medicine. If you do this, you will spend alot of time at Rucker, teaching, doing doctrinal stuff, research, working at the clinic. If you are just flight surgeon qualified, it seems that other than possibly being PROFIS'd to an aviation unit, you don't have to do much. If you want to though, you can fly as much as you can - when I say fly, I mean just as a passenger or "crew" - to log hours and meet your minimums (I believe 4 hours a month) to qualify for flight pay.
         

        pilotdoc

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          No, unfortunately you will not be. The flight surgeon course used to include some "stick" time but now they just put you in the different simulators for a couple of hours, more just for fun than anything. It doesn't count for anything.
           

          Homunculus

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            armydoc said:
            Does anyone know how hard it is to get into the flight surgeon course as a fourth year?

            it can't be too hard. two of my classmates went as 4th year electives a year ago and another student that rotated at WRAMC as a 4th year is going this year.

            --your friendly neighborhood feet on the ground caveman
             

            Hardhack

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            Dec 18, 2008
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              No, unfortunately you will not be. The flight surgeon course used to include some "stick" time but now they just put you in the different simulators for a couple of hours, more just for fun than anything. It doesn't count for anything.

              You may not get any stick time during the flight surgeon training course, but you definitely can once you're trained and flying with your unit. You are not a "passenger" - you're aircrew. Show some interest in the aircraft and the mission and you'll be surprised how much the pilots will teach you and allow you to do. Take off, land, hover, fly under NVGs - the doc can do any of these depending on the aircraft.
               

              edmadison

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                You can only get flight pay if you are in an aviation billet and you fly. Getting to fly is easy, but actual stick time will likely be more difficult. Theoretically, a non-pilot can only fly in a two-seat single pilot aircraft. Almost all of the Hueys have been phased out. All the rest of the Army's aircraft are dual pilot craft. My understanding is that an exemption to this rule requires General Officer approval.

                One warning, you will be "tagged" for deployment if you go to the flight surgeon course. It's likely that you'll deploy more frequently than other docs.

                Finally, I add this: the job sucks. It's all sick call medicine. Thirteen months as a FS in Iraq and I saw less than ten patients that needed physician level care. Great use of my abilities.

                Ed.
                 

                Hardhack

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                  OH-58 Kiowas are two seat, single pilot aircraft with lots of opportunity for flight doc stick time. There are still a few Hueys left. It's definitely not impossible to get that two star approval to fly in dual piloted aircraft like the Apache. There are also some fixed wing aircraft that the Army flies.

                  If you want to see sick people all day in clinic, become an oncologist. A flight surgeon's job is to keep his healthy flyers healthy and flying. Flight medicine is about more than just seeing patients in clinic.
                   

                  notdeadyet

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                    If you want to see sick people all day in clinic, become an oncologist.
                    When I hear "sick people", I think doctor, not oncologist.
                    A flight surgeon's job is to keep his healthy flyers healthy and flying.
                    How does someone do this without having his clinical skills atrophy? Seems like you'd lose a lot of skill over time.
                    Flight medicine is about more than just seeing patients in clinic.
                    Parts of the flight surgeon duties (primarily the, you know, non-doctor parts) sound like they could be a good bit of fun.

                    It's the keeping "healthy flyers healthy" part that bothers me. Sounds like minimal medicine and right out of internship or residency, that equals loss of skill with me.
                     

                    Hardhack

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                      Flying, shop visits, safety briefs, mishap investigations - these ARE medicine. Medicine is not just about curing the sick, it's about preventing illness and injury in the first place. When we learn to do a better job at that, we'll serve our patients far better. It's alot less expensive too. There are tons of flight surgeon duties that are fun. Just because our patient's aren't sick yet doesn't make them "non-doctor" duties.

                      Of course some clinical skills will atrophy. Do you expect to maintain your surgical skills if you become a neurologist? or your radiology skills if you become a dermatologist? You'll gain some skills when you specialize, but the skills you don't need will naturally decline.
                       

                      notdeadyet

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                        Flying, shop visits, safety briefs, mishap investigations - these ARE medicine.
                        Very good point. I should have been more consistent in the use of "clinical medicine".
                        Of course some clinical skills will atrophy. Do you expect to maintain your surgical skills if you become a neurologist? or your radiology skills if you become a dermatologist? You'll gain some skills when you specialize, but the skills you don't need will naturally decline.
                        Right. But though you lose many of your surgical skills as a neurologist, you're losing them because you're devoting so much or your time to building up neurology skills, which you'll be using the rest of your career.

                        My concern with the way flight surgery is set up is that you will be losing your clinical skills across the board (aside from maintaining the PA-level sick-bay stuff) and replacing them with very mission-specific skills that are not going to be very applicable for most physicians after they've done their tour. Mishap investigations are important, without a doubt, I just can't imagine that it will be particularly useful as a civilian neurologist years down the road.

                        Flight surgery sounds like it could be very interesting (though I have a hunch that the majority of time is more sick call with the flying/mishap investigations probably being the minority). I just have reservations about the military's approach of interrupting someone's training to have them do it.

                        Taking someone who has only one year of post-school training, when they're just building up and solidifying skills they'll be using much of their career, and then putting them in an environment where those skills begin to atrophy and are lost just seems like bad medicine to me.
                         

                        menardst

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                          I appologize for possibly high-jacking this thread, but is there anyone could inform me about the process and procedures for applying and attending the FS course at Rucker? Is there a similar course offered by the AF?

                          I am a (prior service Army... now AF) rated Blackhawk and Huey pilot who is now a 3rd year medical student. I would like to attend the course as a 4th year rotation, but I have never heard of anyone doing that until reading this forum. Any and all experience or information/links would be greatly appreciated! If I can payback the favor I will.

                          Thanks
                          Steve Menard
                           

                          DeadCactus

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                            Sorry to bump such an old thread, but I was curious about people's opinions on Navy vs Air vs AF in terms of flight surgeons. It seems like the Navy has a significantly longer flight surgeon course. I was wondering if:

                            a) Navy Flight Surgeons are actually receiving significantly more training or is it just that their training is encompassed by a single course and the Army and AF cover the additional material somewhere else.

                            b) If so, are the Navy Flight Surgeons filling a role that actually requires that additional training beyond what the Army and AF receive?

                            Basically just curious why there is such a huge discrepancy...
                             

                            NavalFS

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                            Jan 9, 2010
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                              hello Dead Cactus,

                              The Navy's FS training program at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute in Pensacola, FL is longer than the Army's and the Air Force programs. Honestly, having been through it, I do not know if it was necessary to be that long.

                              I will say that about half of the time was spent training with Student Naval (Navy and Marine Corps officers) Aviators (survival training, flight training, classwork in Aerodynamics, Weather, Engines etc) and then the other half was spent in the classroom in lectures on Aerospace Medicine, General Medicine and Sub-specialties.

                              I am a Naval FS with the Marine Corps. I enjoy what I do insofar as I feel like I am taking care of my guys, and I get fly backseat etc. However, i also miss training in a hospital toward my residency of choice.

                              I also like and enjoy the Naval Tradition more than the Army or Air Force. I think there is a rich history in Naval Medicine, especially with the relationship between the Navy and Marine Corps. From what I've heard from my Army buddies, i am lucky. I have met and seen Air Force FS's as well. And from what I 've seen they are not as busy (in general) and have really nice facilities. I just like the Navy and Marine Corps and am glad I went this route.

                              Hope this helps!
                               
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