The Great Lakes Region Gets A New Regional Flight Surgeon While Basic Med Increases In Popularity

by Dr. Bill Blank, M.D.
Published in Midwest Flyer – October/November 2018 issue

When I last checked, over 35,000 airmen had availed themselves of “Basic Med.” In addition, Mayo Clinic physicians now perform Basic Med exams. In fact, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, has developed and offered its own on-line Basic Med course which meets the FAA requirements. The only other course is the one offered by the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA).

I feel Mayo’s offering of Basic Med is significant. The Mayo Clinic is a well-respected and world-renowned medical institution. They undoubtedly studied Basic Med carefully before deciding to offer it. This is a significant endorsement of the concept.

As many of you know, a one-time Special Issuance is required to obtain certification via Basic Med for certain medical conditions. These include some neurologic and mental conditions, along with myocardial infarction, heart valve replacement, and heart transplantation. What you may not realize is that for the FAA to act on your Special Issuance, they need an unexpired medical on file. What do I mean by this? I mean a medical which has not expired by date, at least as a third class. Your medical may not be valid because of your health condition, but otherwise would be. If your medical has expired by date, then you will need to see your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) for another exam which he will defer. A practical consideration is, that if your medical only has a few months until expiration, it may expire prior to the FAA completing its evaluation of your records. In that case, they will require that you get another exam.

David Schall, MD, the Great Lakes Regional Flight Surgeon (RFS), took another position with the FAA on April 1. He has been the RFS for 7 years. During that time, he has made many improvements to the Great Lakes Regional Flight Surgeon’s Office.

From my point of view, Dr. Schall is one of the finest RFS’s I have known. His desk phone number has always been available to AMEs. In many regions, that is not the case and you have to go through the “front desk.” He always answered his phone himself. If you left a message, he called back as soon as possible. He also communicated by email. He has called me between planes and sent emails on the weekend. He made it possible and encouraged working many more cases in Chicago instead of Oklahoma City. This was not a priority in the past. He did this to smooth and speed up the certification process. His philosophy has been to treat people like he would like to be treated. I am sure many of our readers have been helped by Dr. Schall without knowing it.

Dr. Schall will be replaced by Joye L. Holmes, M.D. who has been the Deputy Regional Flight Surgeon for the FAA Great Lakes Region in Chicago for 5 years. Prior to that she was the American Airlines Regional Medical Director at O’Hare for 7 years. Her background is in Occupational Medicine. She is experienced in the medical certification process, and, I think, will do a good job.

Is it possible to have a denial reversed? I would like to tell you a story. In September 2017, an airman contacted me because he had been denied certification because of a slightly abnormal visual field in one eye. I reviewed the reports which his treating ophthalmologist had sent to Oklahoma City. It was obvious to me that the visual field changes were minor. I wouldn’t have thought twice about certifying him. The next step was to find out who denied him. It was a non-ophthalmologist review officer in Oklahoma City. An ophthalmologist had never seen it. The FAA will reconsider a denial if further supporting information is provided.

I had the airman see and examined by the FAA’s ophthalmology consultant. He is the one to whom they send all of their difficult ophthalmology cases. He agreed with me and recommended certification. The case then went to an FAA ophthalmologist. After several discussions between the three of us, it was decided in early March to certify him via Special Issuance and he now has his medical. Unfortunately, it took 6 months to reach this goal. Dr. Schall was very helpful with this case.

Happy Flying!

EDITOR’S NOTE: William A. Blank is a physician in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and has been an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) since 1978, and a Senior AME since 1985. Dr. Blank is a retired Ophthalmologist, but still gives some of the ophthalmology lectures at AME renewal seminars. Flying-wise, Dr. Blank holds an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate and has 5600 hours. He is a Certified Instrument Flight Instructor (CFII) and has given over 1200 hours of aerobatic instruction. In addition, Dr. Blank was an airshow performer through the 2014 season and held a Statement of Aerobatic Competency (SAC) since 1987.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this column is the expressed opinion of the author only, and readers are advised to seek the advice of others and refer to the Federal Aviation Regulations and FAA Aeronautical Information Manual for additional information and clarification.

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