Wednesday, April 24, 2013

FAA Medical

Unlike a driver’s license, in order to operate an airplane, pilots must have a medical review periodically. In general, airline pilots get checked every six months, charter pilots get checked every twelve months, and general aviation pilots get checked every twenty four months. Mine came due at the end of March. 

I have been getting my medical from Dr. Randal Franke since 1997. At the time I chose him, it was because he was close. Based at the airport, and a short bike ride from my house, I saw him every couple years to get updated. But recently he left his practice at the airport, and opened a new office in a residential community about half way between the airport and downtown Seattle. He told me his reasons for switching, but since this blog is about me and not him, I will recommend you see him for the story. 

I made my appointment on line -- that was easy. But shortly after I got an email from him assuring the reason for the appointment, negotiating a better time, and confirming I had filled in the correct FAA "MedExpress" forms to initiate my visit. From his mobile phone! The email came from HIS mobile phone. He was making sure everything was arranged during his casual time -- on email. 

Today I made my way to his new office. Honestly I was a bit surprised. His office is in a building that was quite clearly somebody’s home at one time. A sign in front says "Professional Building," but upon walking through the entrance it is clear you are in what was someone’s living room. Directly across is a kitchen, and to the left are offices that were once bedrooms. No receptionist, no medical assistant, no check in counter. On the door labeled "Randal Franke, MD" a yellow sticky proclaimed "with a patient." I sat down in the living waiting room. 

Dr. Franke came out to let me know he would be with me soon. Shortly after he called me back, and I had one of the BEST experiences with a doctor that I can recall. I've long recognized Dr. Franke is a thorough doctor, and has seemed like a nice guy, but today was different. He was relaxed and conversational; he asked about how my life had been in the last couple years and followed up with questions about my health. It wasn't like he was prying; it was like he was paying attention. 

I told him how much I liked interacting informally via email, and how I would be willing to pay my doctor a recurring retainer for such freedom. He said I could email him anytime. 

He performed the rest of the medical review, filled out my paper work and sent me on my way. In reflecting on the experience, I realized what I got today was better than an FAA medical, I got humanity. Thank you Dr. Franke! We’d all be better off with more doctors like you.
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