Aerospace medicine program fills needed flight surgeon positions
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) — The Operational Graduate Medicine Education, or OGME, program establishes a training pipeline that prepares and fields new flight doctors to support Air Force and Joint operations across the globe.
In less than a decade since its inception, OGME, part of the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, or USAFSAM, has become the largest graduate medicine education program in the U.S. Air Force. It averages 60 residents, adding about 20 new graduates per year, said Col. Paul DeFlorio, director of the OGME program.
USAFSAM is part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
“Before OGME, there was no flight surgeon training pipeline,” said DeFlorio. “We just had to hope that people would volunteer to serve in these vital positions. For the first time in the modern era, the Air Force can recruit people into the program and staff flight medicine with fully trained doctors.”
OGME has a network of both military and civilian-affiliated training sites. Operational Family Medicine and Operational Internal Medicine have active-duty and civilian training sites, while Operational Emergency Medicine exclusively uses civilian affiliates.
“The opportunity to serve on active duty while training at the Ohio State has been amazing; we get world-class education while retaining our military identity and culture,” said Lt. Col. Jaysun Frisch, chief resident of emergency medicine, Ohio State University.
According to DeFlorio, before the implementation of the OGME program, it was difficult to staff qualified flight surgeons. A pipeline for residency graduates to flow into flight medicine or operational assignments did not exist. The program, which began in 2013 with two residents, graduated 23 residents last year, all fully trained physicians who are deployable to the field.
“There was no way to plan [before OGME],” DeFlorio said. “We didn’t know how many people — going into residency — we were going to get.”
The OGME program, intended for graduating medical students going into residency training, is available to general medical officers and medical students seeking to combine residency training with a direct flow into operational billets.
OGME residents are awarded flight surgeon wings and become rated aviators after completing training and receiving online refresher courses. After graduating from OGME at the end of their residency, the consultant to the Surgeon General for Aerospace Medicine and program leadership place graduates in operational billets.
“The people that come into this program, they want to go downrange,” DeFlorio said. “They want to be on the helicopter, and when someone gets shot, they want to scoop them up and take care of them.”
For more information about the OGME program, visit: https://www.afrl.af.mil/711HPW/USAFSAM/ogme/.
The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.