Maj. Adam Newell, 2nd Medical Group Flight Medicine chief, demonstrates listening to the heart of a patient on fellow physician Capt. Frank Janes, 2 MDG Flight Medicine general medical officer, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., July 26. The flight medicine doctors ensure more than 1,200 flying personnel are fit-to-fly the Barksdale mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland)(RELEASED)
Maj. Adam Newell 2nd Medical Group Flight Medicine, chief, demonstrates looking into the ear of a patient on fellow physician Capt. Frank Janes, 2 MDG Flight Medicine general medical officer, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., July 26. The annual preventative health assessment is designed to catch any illnesses or medical issues early on so that the flyers can continue to do their part of Barksdale's mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland)(RELEASED)
Maj. Adam Newell 2nd Medical Group Flight Medicine, chief, demonstrates how flight doctors discuss the medical options of a patient with fellow physician Capt. Frank Janes, 2 MDG Flight Medicine general medical officer, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., July 26. The flight medicine works closely with the base's aircrew to meet mission goals. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland)(RELEASED)
by Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
7/27/2012 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- A team of five specialized doctors help ensure completion of the Barksdale Air force Base mission to protect the nation and its global interests with devastating B-52H Stratofortress combat capability.
The doctors of 2nd Medical Group Flight Medicine provide special care to more than 1,200 flying personnel including Airmen from Air Force Global Strike Command, 8th Air Force, 2nd Bomb Wing and other mission partners.
"We are the same as regular physicians," said Maj. Adam Newell, 2 MDG Flight Medicine chief. "We are just specialized providers for flyers and their families."
These specialized doctors hold a status as aircrew and are required to maintain a minimum of four flying hours a month in addition to staying fit to fly and keep up with their duties as doctors.
Flight doctors participate in every level of medical care for the crews from completing their annual preventive health assessments and the personnel reliability program to caring for the flyers' day-to-day medical needs, said Newell.
Because of the rigors of flight, there are several physical conditions which can lead to an aircrew member being placed on a status called "duty not to include flying," or DNIF. They can be DNIF'ed if they cannot clear their ears due to illness, if they cannot concentrate on their aircrew duties or if they cannot safely egress from the plane. Returning them to flight status is a priority for the flight doctors.
"The integration of the flight docs in the squadron helps stop the idea that we are here to ground them," said Newell. "This way, the flyers come to us when something is wrong, which helps us catch issues early on and get them back to flying the mission."
When the flight doctors fly with the aircrew members, they get to know and understand each of the aircrew positions, and gain a better understanding of the different stresses crew members go through.
"By flying with the crews, we can tailor how we treat individual crew members according to their job on the aircraft," said Newell. "Pilots and co-pilots go through different mental and physical stresses than the navigator, radar navigator and electronic warfare officers and vice versa."
The doctors' close working relationship with the squadrons makes them a valuable addition to the mission of the Air Force and Barksdale.
"They are doing a fantastic job of supporting the squadron," said Lt. Col. Christopher Wilcox, 20th Bomb Squadron director of operations. "They help us to get back to flying."
Having such a specialized mission allows the flight medicine team to get to know their patients well.
"The flight docs are very personal," said Capt. Brandon Fischer, 96th Bomb Squadron instructor pilot. "They care about what is affecting us as flyers and help us to understand what we need to do to fix and care for our individual needs."
Flight medicine isn't just about the aircrews; family members go to the office for their medical needs as well.
"They take care of our families," said Fischer. "This gives many of the flyers peace of mind when we fly out on the mission or have to deploy. While we are gone, we don't need to worry about our family's health."
The doctors occasionally see patients who don't normally hold aircrew positions. They also give incentive flyers their initial flight physical. The incentive flight program was set up to give a visible reward for Air Force members who display outstanding service and to motivate others to perform to those same levels of excellence.
"In essence, if you're going to fly you have to come to us for clearance," said Newell.
Though they serve a relatively small portion of the Barksdale military community, the flight medicine clinic staff is critical to the continued health and wellbeing of the base's aircrew and their families with prevention focused health care.
8/2/2012 7:37:50 PM ET It is wonderful to see such compassion in a Doctor and to actually experience what their squadron is going through on a day to day basis makes them more valuable. Proud of our Air Force. Keep our troops healthy.