Partner and assist roles continue at Parwan
August 17, 2012
CAMP SABALU-HARRISON, Afghanistan -- Eight pairs of eyes stare intently at a slide on the wall. One person calls out an answer; although it was not the right answer, the instructor notes that he was close, but says, "This one can be easily misdiagnosed." The instructor lets one more student have an opportunity to identify the medical ailment before letting them know the correct answer.
The students are new physician assistants with the Afghan National Army Medical General Support Unit in Parwan, and they are identifying topical skin rashes in a refresher course. This course, along with many others, is part of Task Force Protector's partner-and-assist mission with the ANA Military Police Brigade in Parwan.
Just outside the walls of this classroom are several ANA providers administering care to ANA soldiers ranging from eye injuries to routine dental check-ups during sick call hours.
The ANA MGSU staff includes doctors, physician assistants, nurses, medics, pharmacists, dentists, dental technicians, pharmacy technicians, lab technicians and radiology technicians that currently provide medical care to ANA soldiers as well as the detainees at the Afghan National Detention Facility in Parwan. The staff treats more than 1,500 patients a month.
Leading the partner-and-assist mission with the ANA MGSU is U.S. Army Reserve 1Lt. Anthony M. Sanchez, physician assistant, Task Force Med. He focuses on assisting the ANA in building its medical capabilities during the critical time of transitioning the Detention Facility in Parwan.
Sanchez is the senior medical advisor to the ANA MGSU and is leading the medical transition team. He also oversees the training and certification necessary for the ANA medical personnel to provide services to personnel within the Afghan National Detention Facility once the transition is complete.
The team wants to set the ANA up for success by working 'shona ba shona,' meaning shoulder -to-shoulder in English, with the ANA medical team.
Task Force Protector's mission is to provide the secure and humane care, custody and control of the detainees in the facility, with care on the same level as the guard force. Providing adequate medical care for the soldiers and the detainees is important to the mission's success and Sanchez's role ensures the ANA will be ready to take the lead.
When Sanchez is not deployed and in uniform training the ANA on their roles in the clinic, he is a physician assistant at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, Wis. He uses his experience to aid him in his work here. Sanchez's experience in training management for a national provider network also supports large scale tasks such as the medical training program here.
Sanchez said he truly enjoys imparting clinical knowledge and skills to his ANA medical counterparts, focusing on the fundamentals of medical diagnosis rather than the use of advanced equipment. He described the experience as rewarding and said it has helped him rely more on his PA knowledge and clinical instincts rather than medical equipment and diagnostics.
Sanchez and five other U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers partner with more than 20 ANA medical facilitators coaching and mentoring them on the daily operations of a medical clinic. The U.S. Soldiers have experience ranging from critical care to emergency medicine and focus on operations management, patient administration, logistics, patient care, and training and development when partnering and training the ANA medical team.
U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Robert M. Berrios, medic, Task Group Empire, is a New York Fire Department Paramedic in his full-time job and has been partnering with the ANA MGSU since February 2012.
"They have progressed by leaps and bounds since February," said Berrios, describing the ANA MGSU's increase in capabilities.
Sanchez feels that his work on the ANA Logistical Support Area is an important job but noted some of the setbacks he encounters.
"I have a better understanding of the significance of military logistical support in order to stand-up an ANA medical facility," said Sanchez. "The hardest thing is getting the logistical part up to standards. Obtaining the supplies needed to be successful has been a slow task to accomplish, but as we get more supplies and equipment in we are able to provide more levels of care," he said.
The role of the U.S. Soldiers working on the ANA LSA will evolve to one of assistance and support as the transition continues.
"In moving forward we need to be flexible, resilient and forthright in attitude and manner and understand that transition takes time and patience," said Sanchez.