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Paulo M. Alves, MD, MSc, FAsMA, is MedAire’s Global Medical Director of Aviation Health after joining the organisation in 2007. MedAire clients, their passengers and the aviation industry have greatly benefited from his medical expertise for over 30 years.
A trained cardiologist, Dr Alves started in the industry in 1983 at Varig Brazilian Airlines – the first airline founded in Brazil - for 23 years. He was the airline’s General Medical Manager for ten years until the company underwent judicial restructuring in 2006.
Varig’s medical services provided a comprehensive catalogue of services – today considered unusual – however, still offered by a few airlines in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Varig delivered more than occupational health-related services in-house to all employees and their relatives.
During his career at Varig, Dr Alves introduced several programs - now considered best-practice in Latin America - including AEDs onboard, crew fatigue management, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and many others. He became increasingly interested in caring for all aspects of crewmember health and improving passenger well-being by developing new onboard resources. It not only drew his curiosity but sparked an irreversible commitment to the health and safety of the millions of people who work and travel on aircraft every day.
AWARDS & APPOINTMENTS
In addition to making a career of this passion, he offers his time to many organisations within the industry. He served as an IATA Medical Advisory Group member from 2002 to 2006. This special committee was established by the IATA Director General, who appoints up to ten members specialising in aviation medicine or occupational health. The Group also reviews and updates guidelines and recommended practices relating to onboard medical care and health-related issues and the IATA Medical Manual. Dr Alves has been continuously supporting IATA by providing his depth of knowledge and experience in forums, webinars and panel discussions, in addition to his close contact with the previous and current IATA’s medical advisor.
Dr Alves is also a member of the International Airlines Medical Association, where he served as President in 2014. The International Airline Medical Association (formerly known as the Airline Medical Directors Association - AMDA) provides a forum for any stakeholder in Aviation Medicine. As a former President of the Brazilian Society of Aerospace Medicine, Dr Alves played an essential role in maintaining a scientific development forum in Brazilian aerospace medicine.
Dr Alves has also supported the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) as the Air Transport Medicine Committee Chairman. AsMA is organised exclusively for charitable, educational, and scientific purposes. It is the largest, most-representative professional membership organisation in aerospace medicine and human performance.
INFLUENCE AT MEDAIRE
Dr Alves provides technical guidance and analysis for MedAire’s MedLink medical advisory service and is a member of the International SOS Medical Advisory Board. His research impacts every aspect of MedAire’s Aviation Medical Service delivery from the training of crewmembers, the process for mitigating in-flight medical emergencies and the life-saving tools and medications carried onboard.
Dr Alves recently worked to develop an AI guided In-Flight Emergency Patient Assessment. The guided scenarios cover the most critical and common in-flight medical events: chest pain, altered mental status, seizure, shortness of breath, suspected infectious diseases, fainting, severe vomiting, abdominal pain, and anaphylaxis.
The app connects the aircraft cabin with MedLink doctors, who use the data collected to direct the crewmember to treat the event using the onboard equipment or to divert the flight to a nearby airport for additional medical care.
“Effective communication from air to ground is the major factor limiting the universal adoption of ground-based medical support globally. Other contributing factors include limited communication tools in aircraft, language or translation barriers, and the complexity of medical problems, which span from trivial to very serious. Therefore, we needed to develop a standardised tool to capture medical information in-flight and seamlessly transmit data to doctors on the ground,” explains Dr Alves.
Think of the In-Flight App as an automated intake form providing scenario-based workflows that adjusts to the situation as more data is collected. The intuitive, user-friendly interface allows for minimal training by the end-user while streamlining getting information from the air to the ground.
INFLUENCE ON THE AVIATION INDUSTRY
True to his commitment, Dr Alves continues to serve the Aviation industry as an active member of the International Academy of Aerospace Medicine, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Safety Committee, and the Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA) which is managed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with support from the World Health Organization (WHO). He is also a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA), a Fellow of the Civil Aviation Medical Association, and the President of the Ibero-American Aerospace Medical Association.
The next time you are on an aeroplane, you will notice the influence Dr Alves has had on every flight.
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