New Aviation Medical Examiner Order

Editorial, by Jon L. Jordan, MD, JD

On May 8, I signed the new Aviation Medical Examiner System Order. This new Order formalizes policies under which we have operated for some time. The Order is written to achieve a continuum of quality improvement by providing high professional standards of practice, reducing reporting errors, and reducing application processing time. The benefit of improved service to airmen is already apparent.

Significant changes in the Order include a requirement to attend an AME seminar every three years, instead of every five years. Also, a staff member must attend a workshop every three years. We believe the pace of change in medical certification policy and procedures necessitates more frequent seminar and workshop attendance to ensure currency of practicing AMEs.

On the FAA’s part, we recognize our responsibility for ensuring that the seminars and workshops are relevant, of high current interest, and delivered with sufficient detail to benefit the attendees. We will continue to award continuing medical credit for the seminars and will strive to make them more available and easily accessible to the majority of the AME population. In addition, we have underway a project to critically assess seminar content and make them more responsive to AME needs.

Prior to designation, prospective AMEs must attend a basic seminar. These are given four times a year at the Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City. These seminars will acquaint the prospective AME with aviation medicine in the FAA and the FAA operational environment. Also, a staff member must attend a Standards and Procedures Workshop. These are held in conjunction with regional AME seminars.

Other changes contained in the new Order include a clarification that designations expire on an annual basis. Annual renewal will take into account changes in the criteria and conditions of designation, as contained in the Order, as well as an evaluation of performance. Regional Flight Surgeons will designate and, when necessary, terminate designation of physicians in their regions. The Manager, Aeromedical Education Division, will designate and terminate designation of foreign, government, and military physicians.

Performance criteria are established to help ensure that timely, high quality examinations are achieved. These criteria serve as a template for improving AME performance. For example, we would consider termination or non-renewal of designation of physicians who:

  • performed no examinations after the first 12 months of designation
  • performed fewer that 15 examination per year after the first 24 months of designation
  • have an error rate greater than 10 percent on the medical examination forms (FAA Form 8500-8).
Indications are that these new designation criteria have already strengthened the AME system by enhancing the quality of services provided to airmen and the accuracy of medical information reported to the Aeromedical Certification Division in Oklahoma City.