I was raised in a military family before embarking on my own 33-year career in military aviation. Throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed reading aviation stories that frequently began with “There I was. Out of airspeed and out of ideas….”. Storytelling is widespread in aviation. Frequently written to amuse, aviation stories have the deeper purpose to inform and educate; to help others avoid costly mistakes.
When I first arrived at DoDMERB, I was frustrated at being asked to make critical decisions about a young man/woman’s future with nothing more than a two-page medical history and the results of a 30-minute physical examination. During my initial orientation, I asked my predecessor how often he called an applicant when he had questions. His response was: “Never!”. In a move that surprised the staff, I began calling applicants when I had questions about their medical history or physical examination. Unfortunately, given the number of cases that each DoDMERB physician had to review, my ability to contact applicants was limited to a handful of cases that truly piqued my curiosity. I can only guess at how many applicants I would have qualified if I only had known more about their medical history.
I began to realize the power storytelling had on my decision-making. Some applicants provided a letter to the examining doctor explaining their medical history in more detail. Other times, an applicant, or one of his/her parents, included a letter more fully describing their medical history, usually after receiving a DoDMERB disqualification. More than once, I reversed my disqualification decision when I had a better understanding of the applicant's medical history.
Unsolicited letters were helpful on occasion, but they had to be carefully crafted. Letters that were incomplete, or had inconsistencies, caused us to question the author's veracity. Some letters helped the applicant; more revealed a previously unknown condition or convinced us a disqualifying condition was still present.
The story your medical record tells is critical to your future. DODMERB Consultants stand ready to help you tell your story - to help you avoid a dream-ending mistake.
Storytelling has been described as “the single most powerful communication tool” an individual possesses.