Dealing With Change

Editorial, by Jon L. Jordan, MD, JD

Depending on the individual’s perspective, confronting and dealing with technical and organizational change presents one of the greatest challenges managers or employees face during their working lifetime. And yet, everyone knows, or should know, that change is inevitable and, in many cases, absolutely necessary.

During the time I have spent as a manager in the Office of Aerospace Medicine, I have had the opportunity to witness relatively dramatic changes in the content and administration of FAA’s programs, not the least of which have been changes in the medical programs. Organizational structure has undergone numerous modifications to accommodate, among others, changing program needs and new management philosophies. Advances in technology and fresh ideas by new as well as experienced employees and managers have opened both minds and doors to innovative changes.

With the advent of required electronic transmission of airman medical certification data and the digital electronic transmission of electrocardiograms, we are about to experience a dramatic change in respect to the management of the airman medical certification system. We recognize that for some aviation medical examiners this change will present a significant challenge. With the institution at the Aeromedical Certification Division of the document imaging workflow system that encompasses the receipt of electronically transmitted medical data and permits the electronic storage and processing of all medical certification data, our staff at the Division will be challenged in adjusting to this new way of “doing business.” While adjusting to this change has the potential for being somewhat painful and disruptive, its implementation is absolutely essential if we expect to improve the quality and efficiency of the medical certification process.

In speaking of change, I am also reminded that significant adjustments are required when “key” personnel either join or leave an organization. In the last several years, the Office of Aerospace Medicine has experienced new vitality through the addition of highly energetic and innovative employees. On the other hand, we have also experienced some negative change as a result of losses of employees. One such loss has now occurred that significantly impacts civil aviation medicine generally as well as me personally.

Dr. William H. Hark stepped down as Deputy Federal Air Surgeon on July 2, leaving a void in the office that is difficult to fill. I have known Bill for the better part of 30 years and have worked with him closely for more than 20. He has been my teacher, counsel, and friend through all these years, and he has had an incalculable influence on the development and administration of civil aviation medical programs in the United States.

While I usually view the opportunity for change in a positive and enthusiastic manner, this is one that I do not relish.

I wish Bill well in his retirement, and I recognize that this is a direction that we all must take sooner or later. Nonetheless, dealing with his departure presents one of the most difficult organizational challenges that the Office of Aerospace Medicine and I have had to face in many years. Although this is a painful problem, I feel certain that we will deal successfully with it, just as I feel certain that we all will deal successfully with the changes now imminent for the medical certification system.