To paraphrase a quote from Sir William Osler: “Listen to your patients long enough and they will tell you what’s wrong.” Great advice from one of the greatest diagnosticians in the medical world, and advice that I use on a regular basis in my wellness practice. That same advice can sometimes be dangerous from a time management point of view when dealing with certain populations.

I’m writing this article from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I’m in Oklahoma to receive the official FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) training required to complete flight physicals for the civilian population. Some might think that being an Air Force flight surgeon would allow me to do FAA flight physicals without any additional training. Our federal government doesn’t share the same opinion…

The FAA’s training mirrors much of what is taught in typical flight surgeon training. Flight surgeons and civilian AMEs (Aviation Medical Examiners) both are charged with ensuring that the pilots we take care of are fit to fly. Military docs have an easier job most of the time, as the military rigorously screens pilots prior to investing 1.5 million dollars in training funds. Civilian pilots are motivated to stay fit, but the majority won’t lose their day jobs if they don’t.

Pilots are special and they know it- just ask ‘em! Pilots would rather talk about flying than health issues. If you listen to a pilot long enough they are more likely to tell you flying stories than about potential illness, thus necessitating the training to get them back on track.

Pilots want to talk about flying. They come in for an annual physical for two primary reasons. 1) They are required to visit a flight doc to maintain certification. 2) They know their flight surgeon/AME is willing to listen to at least one of their stories. (Listening to stories isn’t currently required by FAA regulation but it is certainly taught during training).

What does this have to do with Ageless/Wellness Medicine? While we aren’t required to make an annual wellness appointment with our doc; it’s a great idea! A wellness appointment gives patients the chance to actually talk to the doc about things important to them. It lets the doc see the side of you that isn’t concerned with recovering from an illness. It lets the doc meet the real you!

Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to take a look at your personal wellness from a pilot’s perspective. Bad habits that need to be cleaned up in order to pass your next physical? Diet issues (include both type of food and amount)? Not enough time spent maintaining mental and personal health? Pilots invest both time and money in attaining and maintaining their ability to fly. Isn’t it time that you invested in yourself?




Disclaimer: Dr Stephen Rath, MD, DABA is a board certified anesthesiologist, Air Force flight surgeon, paramedic, and pilot as well as the owner and medical director of Fusion Medical Spa located in Ruidoso, NM. He enjoys taking care of pilots because they aren’t quite right in the head either. Comments or questions? His email address is: