Friday, December 17, 2010

I am a pilot, but I don't play a cardiologist on TV

I'm not a cardiologist, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night...

I am a pilot, but I don't play one on TV.

Did you hear about this guy?The airline pilot who was pretending to be a cardiologist? How would you like to find out he'd done your by-pass surgery? (Although there's no record he ever actually treated any patients. Pilot duped AMA with fake M.D. claim
Naturally, flying big jets requires a certain amount of ego. (A whole lot of ego, the husband says.) And we can get defensive (see previous paragraph) when people try to minimize the skill it takes to do what we do, because it does takes a lot of skill and a lot of knowledge, training and practice. At times, I've found myself  thinking, Well, if I can land a heavy jet on 27R at O'Hare, then I can certainly use this drill to hang a picture, even though I've never once, ever, used a drill. So, I can sort of understand Captain William Hamman's line of thinking. Well, if I can land a heavy jet, then I could be a cardiologist...That may be so. If he went to school and had actually trained, studied and practiced to be a cardiologist. William Hamman allegedly had a few years of medical school and never finished.

That he was able to fake it for so long is astonishing. I'd like to see a cardiologist try to fake being a pilot. We have a saying in my industry on the consequences of incompetence or neglect, "Dead bodies everywhere."  Yeah. it's morbid and dark, but it's also the reason most pilots are rather intolerant of other people's screw-ups (see my post last Friday Two-Do List) It also makes little things seem like, well, little things. I burnt the Christmas cookies. So what? Are there dead bodies anywhere?

Unfortunately, part of what Hamman was teaching--the crew concept--is important. In the airlines we call it Crew Resource Management (CRM) and it deals with letting all members of the crew have input. It's not meant to diminish Captain's authority. It's meant to prevent a Captain from flying a plane into the side of the mountain or running it out of fuel while all the other crew members sit quietly by and watch. I have a friend who is a big deal pediatric neonatologist and she told me how much she loved a class she attended on CRM, which was based on the airline industry concept.  Apparently, questioning or advocating a different course when talking to a surgeon in surgery is similar to questioning a Captain. That CRM has saved lives in airplanes is well documented. I have no doubt it could do the same in the medical field, e.g. Sir, did you mean to leave that scalpel inside the patient?

Hamman is no longer pretending to be a cardiologist.  He's no longer flying for United Airlines, either.  The man's ego and delusions of grandeur are what enabled him to pull-off a career as a airline pilot while simultaneously pretending to being a doctor on the side. It was also the source of his downfall.

I can only hope the only ill-fated consequences of my pilot ego in the other parts of my life will be a large hole in the drywall in the basement rec room and the fact I like to call myself a writer.

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