A report of the seminar; “Is there a doctor on board?”

A report of the seminar; “Is there a doctor on board?” at the annual conference of American College of Physicians, Japan Chapter

GIM, Saitama Medical University Hospital

Yuji Yamada, M.D.

We held a seminar, the title of which was “Is there a doctor on board? -to be a physician who can confidently raise a hand to help in-flight medical emergencies” at the annual conference of American College of Physicians, Japan Chapter, Kyoto, Japan. Our initial plan was to create a seminar which can help participants improve their English communication skills. Through our discussion we found in-flight medical emergencies are not well recognized in Japan and decided to focus on this in our seminar.

The number of annual commercial airline passengers exceeded 4 billion for the first time in 2017 according to the report from International Air Transport Association (IATA) and it is expected to increase further. More than 5,000 aircrafts fly at an altitude of 30,000 feet at any given time and ten million people spend several hours daily on the plane. Here comes the problem: In-Flight Medical Emergencies (IMEs).

The estimated prevalence of IMEs is approximately 1 in 600 flights, meaning 1,000 IMEs occur somewhere in the sky every day. As a result, it is becoming inevitable to encounter some kind of IMEs when we take a flight. Therefore, learning and preparing for IMEs are essential for us physicians. The main purpose of this seminar was to provide basic knowledge and important skills to better cope with them.

On the day of this seminar more than 50 participants gathered early in the morning. After quick icebreaking activities, we started the session with a short play. Dr. Makiishi, who belonged to a drama club, played a role of a physician passenger. Dr. Tsutsumi became a passenger from Singapore, who developed syncope in the aircraft. Ms. Komazaki, who is a former cabin attendant, played a cabin attendant role very naturally. Their impressive performance instantly grabbed audience’s heart and greatly helped them understand the concept of IMEs. Lectures were also given in-between the performance, regarding 1) common presentations and proper management of IMEs based on up-to-date medical literatures, 2) tips of history taking in English, and 3) introduction of cabin attendants’ role in IMEs and emergency medical kits available on airplanes. I believe the lectures given not only by a physician but also by a cabin attendant made the understanding of audience even deeper.

It is essential to learn and prepare for IMEs in advance to care sick passengers efficiently since the condition in airplanes is quite unusual. However, in reality, there are not many workshops or seminars available in Japan. We hope this seminar was a great opportunity for audience to recognize the importance of preparation for IMEs and also a great start to expand this type of activities in the future.