Finding a good AME
For all of us who fly powered aircraft and who require periodic medical certification, the visit to our Aviation Medical Examiner can be one of those life stressors that ranks right up there with a root canal (which is actually not unpleasant at all; I just had a “retreatment” of a 30 year-old crown and it was totally painless.) Most of us are fortunate enough to sail right through the exam with no problems, but as we age, the chances begin to creep up of having a glitch or two that can spoil the day. The experience can be better or worse depending upon the quality of the encounter with the AME, and that includes the location and condition of the office space, the knowledge and efficiency of the physician’s staff, and of course, the medical examiner’s rapport with his/her airman patients.
In recent years, the FAA has focused increasing attention on the quality of their medical examiner designees, and now the FAA regional medical offices conduct site inspections of the AMEs in their respective regions. Although the total number of AMEs nationwide has decreased, the quality of the remaining examiners is generally very good. There are exceptions, of course, and we occasionally roll our eyes and emit a small groan when members relate their not so pleasant AME experiences.
Our medical certification staff is often asked to “recommend” a good AME in a pilot’s local area. I have the pleasure of knowing quite a few examiners around the country, and if a member is located reasonably close to one of those “good ones,” I will point them in that direction. A good resource for AMEs is the local pilot community, so if you’re new to an area, hang out at the airport and you will soon have the lowdown on who to see. The AOPA database of medical examiners is available online.
Location is important, so you can search the database by zip code, city, county or state, or if you’re looking for a particular AME, the first or last name.
About 50% of AMEs hold airman certificates, but many non-pilot examiners are former military flight surgeons or have an interest in aviation that leads them to obtain the designation. A small subset of Senior AMEs (those designated to perform First Class physical exams) is well known to the FAA for providing excellent service to airmen who have challenging medical histories. Referred to as “Super AMEs,” these examiners can sometimes confer with the physicians at the FAA’s Aerospace Medical Certification Division in Oklahoma City and obtain a phone authorization for an office issuance, a huge timesaver considering that a deferred medical can often take three months to resolve.
Finding a good AME is like finding a good A&P to do your annual. When you do finally strike a happy balance with the right doctor, it will hopefully become a long term pilot/physician relationship, and often, a friendship as well.
May 17, 2011