September 25, 2015
Focus on Members
Dr. Silvio Finkelstein
Silvio Finkelstein, M.D., had the honor of working in the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO’s) Aviation Medicine Section for 23 years, starting as an Aviation Medical Officer at the beginning of 1971 and being promoted to Chief in 1975, retiring in 1994. Many important developments took place during that period. In his opinion, the prohibition of smoking in aircraft and the initial steps, in south East Asia towards improved management of public health events in the aviation sector are the most salient points. Other important points relate to the recognition by the ICAO Council of the importance of aviation medicine by granting the Edward Warner Award to the Academy and Past Presidents of both the Academy and the Aerospace Medical Association.
A major event took place in 1981. Dr. Stanley Mohler (former AsMA President) nominated Dr. Harry Armstrong, also a Past President of AsMA, to receive the prestigious ICAO Edward Warner Award. This award, in the words of a former Director of ICAO’s Legal Bureau is the “Nobel Prize equivalent for aviation.” Dr. Finkelstein was chief of the ICAO Aviation Medicine Section (C/MED) at the time and was summoned by ICAO’s President (who chairs the Council’s Edward Warner Award Committee) to answer questions related to the nominee and the nominator. Very satisfied with his comments, the Committee recommended to Council that the award be given to Dr. Armstrong. It was the only time in ICAO’s history that the Ceremony did not take place in connection with an ICAO Assembly (the 3-yearly gathering in Montreal of all ICAO member States). Since Dr. Armstrong was very ill, Dr. Assad Kotaite, President of the ICAO Council at the time, flew to San Antonio and presented the award there. It should be noted that the granting of the award was a recognition by ICAO’s Council of the importance of the discipline of Aviation Medicine. On two more occasions the award was presented to an aviation medicine related organization or individual, once to the International Academy of Aviation and Space Medicine itself and the other to Dr. Finkelstein himself, the first time a former ICAO Staff member and a past president of the Academy had received it.
During Dr. Finkelstein’s tenure as the Chief of Aviation Medicine Section at ICAO, standardized courses for Designated Medical Examiners (DMEs) commenced. The second edition of the MED Manual was published in English, French, Spanish, and Russian. A standard calling for obligatory training in AVMED for DMEs was adopted (although it was not until 2005 that this training was made mandatory prior to appointment). The ICAO Warner Award was granted to a physician, Dr. Harry Armstrong, in recognition of Aviation Medicine. A French-speaking aviation medical officer was recruited and a non-smoking policy for ICAO meeting rooms was adopted. Assistance was provided to French-speaking Contracting States and improvements of French versions of MED Documents were published. Regional seminars were provided for francophone African States. A major study on flight fatigue and on smoking in aircraft was initiated as were studies on prevention of substance abuse in the workplace, human factors, and implications of AIDS. ICAO worked with the European Community on a major revision of ICAO medical standards, co-operated with Canadian authorities to develop programs for post-graduate education and research in civil aviation medicine, and liaised with WHO on matters related to substance abuse and smoking in aircraft. The resolution A29-15 calling for a ban on smoking in aircraft was adopted by the ICAO Assembly. Thus, when Dr. Finkelstein retired in 1994 from ICAO and returned to Argentina, he felt happy to have contributed to ICAO’s Aviation Medicine Section programs and activities.
Dr. Finkelstein is an Emeritus Member and Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association. He was the 1995 recipient of the Harry G. Moseley Award and serves on the Air Transport Medicine Committee. He is also a member of the Iberoamerican Association of Aerospace Medicine.