116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A MercyCare doctor based in Monticello was recently certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to issue aviation medical certificates for individuals applying for a pilot’s license.
Dr. Stephen Runde, a family practice physician at the MercyCare clinic in Monticello, now is one of 34 aviation medical examiners in the state.
“I was glad to do it because I’ve done that before, except just not with the FAA,” Runde said. “It’s something I’ve got a lot of experience with, so it was a natural move.“
To fly solo, the FAA requires pilots to obtain a medical certificate from a doctor who is an authorized aviation medical examiner.
The process entails a physical exam, as well as an assessment of mental and neurological health. The examiner also conducts vision and hearing tests, and other tests to check for potential diseases or medical conditions.
“It’s a more thorough (exam),” Runde said. “You have to document every scar they’ve got, every tattoo they’ve got. It’s a very detailed physical exam, very detailed vision exam. So it’s fairly intense.”
Runde is certified as an examiner for second- and third-class pilots. Third-class pilots are recreational and private pilots, and the second-class classification refers to pilots who fly commercially, such as crop dusters or those carrying cargo or passengers.
He started conducting exams in March. So far, he’s completed a handful of medical certificates for aspiring pilots.
Runde applied to become an aviation medical examiner after a former physician in the Cedar Rapids area, who was certified by the FAA and conducted up to 80 exams a year, retired.
Runde said the FAA typically only allows a certain number of examiners in a given area. There are about 6,000 aviation medical examiners nationwide, according to Mercy officials.
Throughout his 38-year career as a physician, Runde has had plenty of experience in occupational medicine. For years while working at an urgent care clinic, Runde said he conducted pre-employment physicals for the Iowa Department of Transportation and other government entities. He’s also conducted assessments on high school students joining the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
He didn’t anticipate he would become so involved in occupational health when he first became a physician, he said.
He graduated from medical school in 1980 at the University of Iowa and completed a family medicine residency three years later in Cedar Rapids.
Runde started out at a private family practice clinic in Marion. After 11 years, Runde said he “wanted to make a change” and accepted a job in 1994 at MercyCare North, an urgent care clinic in Cedar Rapids.
He joined MercyCare Monticello as a full-time family medicine physician about a year and a half ago, he said.
“It’s worked out for me to return to my roots,” Runde said. “I’m happy I made the change.”
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