Doctors in Flight

Why I book flights with Dr. in front of my name – NYT interview featuring Paul Abramson MD

Exerpt from “When Doctors are Called to the Rescue in Midflight” in the New York Times, May 24, 2011, by Katie Hafner:

Since the earliest days of commercial aviation, airlines have coped with medical emergencies in flight by calling on physicians who happen to be passengers. And as more people travel by air, the number of emergencies has risen accordingly. […]

But physicians who get a firsthand look at the kits say the contents vary.

“With some planes, it’s a hospital in a box, and they have everything you could ever want,” said Dr. Paul Abramson, a primary care physician in San Francisco. “But often they look like they’ve been picked over.”Doctors in Flight

Dr. Abramson said one kit he was given had implements for ventilating a patient unable to breathe, but no bag to push air into the patient — a situation akin to having a gasoline nozzle and tank, but no fuel.

Another kit contained only enough intravenous saline solution to rehydrate a baby, not the 200-pound man he was tending. […]

Dr. Abramson, the San Francisco physician, has answered so many emergency calls on planes that he now carries some basic medications in his toiletries bag whenever he flies, including antihistamines, prednisone, sedatives and painkillers, all “just in case they don’t have it.”

He also books his flights with “Dr.” in front of his name. “That’s so that if I’m asleep, they might wake me,” he said. And he doesn’t take sleeping pills or drink alcohol in flight. “The last thing you want to do is be woken up and not be with it,” Dr. Abramson said.

“I kind of like doing it,” he continued. “Because it’s what I do, and it seems helpful, and it’s interesting to make do with whatever minimal resources you have.”

Dr. Abramson occasionally receives letters of thanks from the airline, and once received a free domestic ticket. “That was the best,” he said.

See the full article here:

Dr. Paul Abramson is the founder and medical director of My Doctor Medical Group in San Francisco.

We also offer physician travel medicine consultation and remote medical support during travel to our patients, hoping to help them avoid in-flight and other travel emergencies.  Contact us for details.

Follow @paulabramsonMD on Twitter


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