US Air Force medics enhance skills, forge ties with Dominicans
Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas — Airmen from the59th Medical Wing are improving their clinical skills and buildinginternational relationships during a U.S. Southern Command sponsored readinesstraining exercise in the Dominican Republic.
New Horizons 2016, a three-month exercise that kicked offin April, brings together U.S. military civil engineers and medicalprofessionals who conduct readiness training exercises by delivering healthcare services to local communities. Civil engineers are building four clinicsand one school during the exercise.
The exercise is also enhancing the medical readiness of the59th MDW, said Col. Glenn Yap, the wing’s vice commander and medical missioncommander.
“It is very exciting and it’s been a great experience. Ourwarrior medics are treating a large number of patients, including many whowould normally not have access to medical care,” Yap said.
Thirty medics from the wing are in the Dominican Republicto support the command cell and ambulance crew, and they are leading four ofthe 10 rotational medical/surgical teams who train in country for two-weekperiods. The 10 rotational teams are comprised of between 15-42 medical anddental professionals from other Air Force, Army and Canadian medical facilities,both active duty and reserve.
Specialties include: general medicine, preventative dental,general surgical, infectious disease, public health, urology, gynecology,ophthalmology, veterinary, and ear, nose and throat, Yap said.
“(The exercise) gives our medical teams a chance topractice their clinical skills in a different environment. This helps themsharpen their skills in preparation for worldwide deployments,” Yap explained.
The wing is also participating in a medical exchange,connecting subject matter experts from each country in pediatric nutrition andpublic health.
“We all benefited from each other’s unique insight,” saidMaj. James Townley, a Joint Warfighter Refractive Surgery Centercornea/external disease and refractive surgeon.
“Some techniques we use in the U.S. are incompatible withthe severity of the disease processes we find overseas, and the physicians fromthe Dominican Republic have more experience dealing with those advanced diseaseprocesses,” he continued. “They are also (accustomed) with working with fewerresources than we were.”
Working with colleagues across many different medicalspecialties and bringing together military members from around the U.S. allowedthe teams to perform a common goal: good medicine in an unfamiliar location, headded.
“I learned the importance of good logistics and fostering aclose working relationship with the host nation. There were many times it wasnecessary to work intimately with the host nation’s government and physiciansto ensure our essential supplies arrived in time for us to perform our mission,”Townley said. “Without everyone’s combined efforts, the mission would have beena failure.”