Piloting patients to good health

ATP Medicine, LTD takes business of keeping pilots in the air to successful heights

If given a choice, Dr. Robert Thomas would find ways to climb into airplanes and fly every single day.

“Oh, how I wish,” Thomas said smiling. “But I have a job to do.”

Grounded far too often for his liking, Thomas still plays a pivotal role in the lives of many of the pilots who make Alaska’s aviation industry soar. A certified aero-medical examiner, Thomas specializes in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) physicals, in addition to men’s health and alternative medicine.

He’s worked as a flight surgeon for NASA and the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

Thomas opened ATP Medicine, LTD in 2013 and takes his role as an FAA senior aviation medical examiner very seriously.

Always available

Unsurprisingly, aviation medicine is very specialized. In nearly all instances, the FAA requires pilots to undergo an annual physical exam with a certified physician. According to the FAA, the primary goal of its medical certification program is to protect not only those who would exercise the privileges of a pilot certificate but also air travelers and the general public.

“A pilot’s schedule is often hectic and their needs are different,” Thomas said. “For example, a pilot may fly to Asia for 13 days and then come home for 10 days. Others may cross nine time zones in a day, meaning their circadian rhythms get totally shocked and it may be difficult to figure out the best time to get sleep.”

ATP Medicine, located minutes from the Anchorage Ted Stevens International Airport, has regular office hours. But Thomas makes himself available to his patients at all hours of the day.

“We’ve performed a physical at 2 a.m. on a Saturday because that’s when those particular medevac pilots needed our help,” he said. “The bottom line is I treat every one of our patients like a family member. As such, a pilot should not hesitate to call me in the middle of night if a member of their family is sick.”

This level of commitment is connected to the pilot’s overall wellbeing, he said.

“We can’t have our pilots staying awake at night with concern about their loved one and then board a plane first thing in the morning,” he said. “We all want our pilots to be well rested and I will gladly do my part to help ensure they are.”

Alaska is “the ultimate in beauty and freedom”

Thomas said his love affair with flying started as a small child. He remembers watching famed pilot Bob Hoover wow crowds at air shows and the first time the Blue Angels captivated his imagination.

“Nothing came close to capturing my interest and imagination,” Thomas said.

He wore glasses as a child, so he wasn’t sure if piloting could be part of his future.

“But that stance evolved quite a bit and I worked on becoming both a doctor and a pilot,” Thomas said.

Prior to moving to Anchorage in 2011, Thomas lived and worked in Southeast Alaska for 15 years. His wife was born and raised in Alaska.

“Alaska is the ultimate in beauty and freedom, and Alaskans know what a special place it is,” Thomas said.

On special occasions, the clinic becomes a hub for pilots and community members when the staff at ATP Medicine hosts a social event at the office.

“Those get-togethers are enjoyable because not only are we in the business of keeping our patients healthy,” Thomas said. “But the get-togethers give me the chance to meet up with my flying buddies.”

To learn more about ATP Medicine, LTD, please visit atpmedicine.comor call 907-868-2961.