Changing to Meet the Challenge

Editorial, by Jon L. Jordan, MD, JD

The strength of any organization is dependent on the quality (and sometimes the quantity) of its people. In my memory, quantity has always been a problem for the Office of Aerospace Medicine, especially in light of the scope our responsibilities and the tasks we must accomplish.

In the last issue of the Federal Air Medial Surgeon's Bulletin, I wrote about the vagaries of our budget process, the impact that insufficient funding and staffing have on our ability to accomplish our objectives, and the need to take advantage of evolving technology to meet our obligations. In this respect, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey recently described how the agency and its people have always responded to dynamic challenges, saying she is "confident that the agency will meet these challenging times with the same kind of professionalism and commitment as it did in the past (see excerpts). In connection with the Administrator's comments, one thing I failed to address in that column is the concentrated efforts we have made to maintain and enhance the quality and professionalism of the staff of the Office of Aerospace Medicine.

Building and maintaining a quality staff in an organization that operates in the government sector is not easy. In addition to funding and staffing limitations, cumbersome and protracted recruitment procedures, complex personnel management rules, and limitations on pay and other employment incentives have all played a role. I have been somewhat surprised that, in spite of these limitations, the Office of Aerospace Medicine has been able to build the quality staff that now exists - beginning with our entry-level clerk-typists all the way through our top management.

We have lost some extremely valuable people over the years through retirements, illnesses, and occasionally deaths, and some folks have simply moved on to "greener pastures." In most of these instances, however, we have had the good fortune of being able to replace those people with others of equivalent and sometimes better skills and knowledge. From an overall perspective, I think we have an excellent staff throughout the entire medical program. This has not occurred through happenstance. It has occurred through a dedicated effort to locate, recruit, and hire the best and brightest candidates we could find.

In the Summer 1999 issue of the Federal Air Surgeon's Medial Bulletin, we announced the retirement of the Deputy Federal Air Surgeon, Dr. William H. Hark. My column in that issue reflected on the importance of the contributions Bill had made to the programs of the Office of Aerospace Medicine and the influence he had on me, personally. Indeed, I was apprehensive about being able to find a replacement for Bill as someone who might possess equal dedication and expertise.

I was pleased when we received applications from 19 candidates, from both inside and outside government, many of whom were highly qualified. I was even more pleased when, following interviews of the best qualified candidates, Dr. Fred Tilton accepted my invitation to become the next Deputy Federal Air Surgeon.

With Fred now a member of the Office of Aerospace Medicine team, I look forward with even greater positive anticipation to the challenges that face us in the future. With our continuing need to improve all facets of the agency's medical programs, I anticipate that Fred's educational achievements; his aeromedical and occupational health experience, both inside and outside government; and his recognized professionalism will serve the agency and the rest of the aviation community quite well.

Welcome aboard, Fred!