Medical readiness exercise in Burundi reveals unsung hero of medical mission

By Master Sgt. Dave ThompsonMay 16, 2024

Back to U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Erin Bothwell, a preventative medicine specialist (68S), assigned to the 172nd Medical Detachment, 261st Medical Battalion, 44th Medical Brigade, analyzes pesticides used at the Komenge Mil Hospital to better understand the environment our Burundi National Defence Force counterparts work in a day-to-day basis to help them assess their safety goals during the Medical Readiness Exercise (MEDREX) in Bujumbura Burundi, on April 12, 2024. MEDREX is a medical readiness exercise program, planned and executed by the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF), that allows military health professionals from the U.S. and their African partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities, resulting in lasting relationships between the partners. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Hopper)
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Erin Bothwell, a preventative medicine specialist (68S), assigned to the 172nd Medical Detachment, 261st Medical Battalion, 44th Medical Brigade, analyzes pesticides used at the Komenge Mil Hospital to better understand the environment our Burundi National Defence Force counterparts work in a day-to-day basis to help them assess their safety goals during the Medical Readiness Exercise (MEDREX) in Bujumbura Burundi, on April 12, 2024. MEDREX is a medical readiness exercise program, planned and executed by the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF), that allows military health professionals from the U.S. and their African partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities, resulting in lasting relationships between the partners. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Hopper) (Photo Credit: Sgt. Anthony Hopper) VIEW ORIGINAL

BUJUMBURA, Burundi – Weaving in and around the bustling Kamenge Military Hospital in Bujumbura, Burundi, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Erin Bothwell quietly goes about her business of protecting the force. In this case, she protects U.S. Army and Burundi National Defense Force (BNDF) doctors and nurses partnered together during the latest medical readiness exercise (MEDREX) planned and executed by U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF).

MEDREX is a program which allows military health professionals from the U.S. and their African partners to exchange medical best practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities, resulting in lasting relationships between the partners.

Bothwell is from Cleveland, Ohio, and joined the U.S. Army in 2014, driven by a deep passion and desire to not only better herself by serving her country, but also to make a profound and positive impact in her community.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mashandra Elam-Canty, a perinatal clinical nurse specialist assigned to Womack Army Medical Center, 44th Medical Brigade, Fort Liberty, North Carolina, converses with Dr. Igor Carnot Ishimwe, general resident physician with the Burundi National Defense Force, during a cesarean surgical procedure in the hospital’s delivery ward. Elam-Canty, who is a San Antonio, Texas, native, is part of a 20-person U.S. Army medical team partnering with the Burundi National Defense Force for medical readiness exercise (MEDREX) Burundi, a bi-lateral exercise held at the Kamenge Military Hospital in Bujumbura, Burundi, from April 8-26, 2024. The partners are working side-by-side to provide treatment in a variety of medical specialties to military and civilian patients in the Bujumbura communities.
MEDREX is planned and executed by the United States Army Southern European Task Force, Africa and allows military medical personnel from the U.S. Army and their African partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities resulting in lasting relationships between medical professionals. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Dave Thompson)
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mashandra Elam-Canty, a perinatal clinical nurse specialist assigned to Womack Army Medical Center, 44th Medical Brigade, Fort Liberty, North Carolina, converses with Dr. Igor Carnot Ishimwe, general resident physician with the Burundi National Defense Force, during a cesarean surgical procedure in the hospital’s delivery ward. Elam-Canty, who is a San Antonio, Texas, native, is part of a 20-person U.S. Army medical team partnering with the Burundi National Defense Force for medical readiness exercise (MEDREX) Burundi, a bi-lateral exercise held at the Kamenge Military Hospital in Bujumbura, Burundi, from April 8-26, 2024. The partners are working side-by-side to provide treatment in a variety of medical specialties to military and civilian patients in the Bujumbura communities.
MEDREX is planned and executed by the United States Army Southern European Task Force, Africa and allows military medical personnel from the U.S. Army and their African partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities resulting in lasting relationships between medical professionals. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Dave Thompson) (Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Dave Thompson)
VIEW ORIGINAL
U.S. Army Maj. Stacy Sheppard, certified registered nurse anesthetist assigned to the 240th Forward Resuscitative Surgical Detachment, 44th Medical Brigade, Fort Liberty, North Carolina, exchanges medical information with Dr. Fabrice Mugisha, anesthetist with the Burundi National Defense Force, during a surgical procedure. Sheppard is part of a U.S. Army medical team partnering with the Burundi National Defense Force for medical readiness exercise (MEDREX) Burundi, a bi-lateral exercise held at the Kamenge Military Hospital in Bujumbura, Burundi, from April 8-26, 2024. The partners are working side-by-side to provide treatment in a variety of medical specialties to military and civilian patients in the Bujumbura communities.
MEDREX is planned and executed by the United States Army Southern European Task Force, Africa and allows military medical personnel from the U.S. Army and their African partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities resulting in lasting relationships between medical professionals. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Dave Thompson)
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Maj. Stacy Sheppard, certified registered nurse anesthetist assigned to the 240th Forward Resuscitative Surgical Detachment, 44th Medical Brigade, Fort Liberty, North Carolina, exchanges medical information with Dr. Fabrice Mugisha, anesthetist with the Burundi National Defense Force, during a surgical procedure. Sheppard is part of a U.S. Army medical team partnering with the Burundi National Defense Force for medical readiness exercise (MEDREX) Burundi, a bi-lateral exercise held at the Kamenge Military Hospital in Bujumbura, Burundi, from April 8-26, 2024. The partners are working side-by-side to provide treatment in a variety of medical specialties to military and civilian patients in the Bujumbura communities.
MEDREX is planned and executed by the United States Army Southern European Task Force, Africa and allows military medical personnel from the U.S. Army and their African partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities resulting in lasting relationships between medical professionals. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Dave Thompson) (Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Dave Thompson)
VIEW ORIGINAL

Assigned to the 172nd Medical Detachment (Preventative Medicine) 44th Medical Brigade, out of Fort Liberty, North Carolina, Bothwell, a preventive medicine specialist, is charged with ensuring the safety of food and water within hospitals and military units. For MEDREX Burundi, her job is to work with her BNDF counterparts to protect patients and hospital staff from dangerous bacteria and chemical substances.

“I was about to graduate college but wasn’t ready to become a full-time teacher like I planned,” said Bothwell. “While looking for jobs to do in the meantime, I realized I had a lot of family members who served [in the military]. I talked to a recruiter and figured I could join, gain some experience, travel the world a little and serve my community as a health inspector.”

As part of the 20-person U.S. Army medical team participating in the MEDREX, Bothwell’s role as a health inspector now extends far beyond the borders of the United States.

While the doctors, nurses and technicians focus their attention on patient care, Bothwell works tirelessly behind the scenes, conducting meticulous tests and inspections while implementing protocols to uphold sanitation and safety standards.

“Traveling a lot and testing different things such as water is my favorite part about this job,” explains Bothwell. “It makes me realize how important my role is in the medical field, ensuring that everything is up to standard and protecting the people in my community makes this job well worth it.”

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Erin Bothwell (left), a preventative medicine specialist (68S) and Capt. Jess Inskeep, an entomologist (72B), both assigned to 172nd Medical Detachment, receive a tour of the Kamenge Military Hospital laboratories with their Burundian counterpart, Lt. Col. Jean Claude Seberege, deputy director of labs, with the Burundi National Defence Force. Bothwell and Inskeep are taking samples and testing the water and other equipment used at the hospital to ensure safety measures are met while assisting the hospital staff in achieving their goals of safely treating patients during the Medical Readiness Exercise (MEDREX) in Bujumbura Burundi, on April 12, 2024.  MEDREX is a medical readiness exercise program, planned and executed by the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF), that allows military health professionals from the U.S. and their African partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities, resulting in lasting relationships between the partners. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Hopper)
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Erin Bothwell (left), a preventative medicine specialist (68S) and Capt. Jess Inskeep, an entomologist (72B), both assigned to 172nd Medical Detachment, receive a tour of the Kamenge Military Hospital laboratories with their Burundian counterpart, Lt. Col. Jean Claude Seberege, deputy director of labs, with the Burundi National Defence Force. Bothwell and Inskeep are taking samples and testing the water and other equipment used at the hospital to ensure safety measures are met while assisting the hospital staff in achieving their goals of safely treating patients during the Medical Readiness Exercise (MEDREX) in Bujumbura Burundi, on April 12, 2024. MEDREX is a medical readiness exercise program, planned and executed by the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF), that allows military health professionals from the U.S. and their African partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities, resulting in lasting relationships between the partners. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Hopper) (Photo Credit: Sgt. Anthony Hopper) VIEW ORIGINAL

For Bothwell, the MEDREX in Bujumbura has been nothing short of life changing. Completely immersed in the culture, Bothwell has been deeply touched by the warmth and hospitality of the Burundian people. She marvels at their friendly disposition and positive attitude, finding inspiration in their resilience and resourcefulness.

“I’m privileged to be here working with the incredible people of Burundi while we train and learn from each other,” Bothwell adds.

U.S. Army Maj. Jeffrey Hoffman, orthopedic surgeon assigned to Womack Army Medical Center, 44th Medical Brigade, Fort Liberty, North Carolina, performs surgery with Dr. Dauphin Muryango, orthopedic surgeon, Burundi National Defense Force, to repair a patient’s leg injured during a car accident. Hoffman is part of a U.S. Army medical team partnering with the Burundi National Defense Force for medical readiness exercise (MEDREX) Burundi, a bi-lateral exercise held at the Kamenge Military Hospital in Bujumbura, Burundi, from April 8-26, 2024. The partners are working side-by-side to provide treatment in a variety of medical specialties to military and civilian patients in the Bujumbura communities.

MEDREX is planned and executed by the United States Army Southern European Task Force, Africa and allows military medical personnel from the U.S. Army and their African partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities resulting in lasting relationships between medical professionals.
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Dave Thompson)
U.S. Army Maj. Jeffrey Hoffman, orthopedic surgeon assigned to Womack Army Medical Center, 44th Medical Brigade, Fort Liberty, North Carolina, performs surgery with Dr. Dauphin Muryango, orthopedic surgeon, Burundi National Defense Force, to repair a patient’s leg injured during a car accident. Hoffman is part of a U.S. Army medical team partnering with the Burundi National Defense Force for medical readiness exercise (MEDREX) Burundi, a bi-lateral exercise held at the Kamenge Military Hospital in Bujumbura, Burundi, from April 8-26, 2024. The partners are working side-by-side to provide treatment in a variety of medical specialties to military and civilian patients in the Bujumbura communities.

MEDREX is planned and executed by the United States Army Southern European Task Force, Africa and allows military medical personnel from the U.S. Army and their African partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities resulting in lasting relationships between medical professionals.
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Dave Thompson) (Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Dave Thompson)
VIEW ORIGINAL

Bothwell says she has gained so many valuable lessons from her BNDF partners. Witnessing their ability to accomplish so much, with minimal resources, has left a lasting impression on her. She is in awe of the beauty of Burundi, not just its lush, tropical landscape and warm climate, but also in the strength and resourcefulness of its people.

This experience goes above and beyond the typical medical mission; it’s about forging connections, broadening horizons and opening her eyes to a deeper understanding of humanity, she said.

Through her encounter with the people of Burundi and involvement in the MEDREX mission, she is appreciative of the opportunity to contribute to their well-being, but more importantly, learning from them and being enriched by their spirit and resilience.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mashandra Elam-Canty, a perinatal clinical nurse specialist assigned to Womack Army Medical Center, 44th Medical Brigade, Fort Liberty, North Carolina, takes a photo with Ciza Diomede, a midwife with the Burundi National Defense Force, and a newborn baby they helped to deliver. Elam-Canty, who is a San Antonio, Texas, native, is part of a 20-person U.S. Army medical team partnering with the Burundi National Defense Force for medical readiness exercise (MEDREX) Burundi, a bi-lateral exercise held at the Kamenge Military Hospital in Bujumbura, Burundi, from April 8-26, 2024. The partners are working side-by-side to provide treatment in a variety of medical specialties to military and civilian patients in the Bujumbura communities.
MEDREX is planned and executed by the United States Army Southern European Task Force, Africa and allows military medical personnel from the U.S. Army and their African partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities resulting in lasting relationships between medical professionals. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Dave Thompson)
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mashandra Elam-Canty, a perinatal clinical nurse specialist assigned to Womack Army Medical Center, 44th Medical Brigade, Fort Liberty, North Carolina, takes a photo with Ciza Diomede, a midwife with the Burundi National Defense Force, and a newborn baby they helped to deliver. Elam-Canty, who is a San Antonio, Texas, native, is part of a 20-person U.S. Army medical team partnering with the Burundi National Defense Force for medical readiness exercise (MEDREX) Burundi, a bi-lateral exercise held at the Kamenge Military Hospital in Bujumbura, Burundi, from April 8-26, 2024. The partners are working side-by-side to provide treatment in a variety of medical specialties to military and civilian patients in the Bujumbura communities.
MEDREX is planned and executed by the United States Army Southern European Task Force, Africa and allows military medical personnel from the U.S. Army and their African partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities resulting in lasting relationships between medical professionals. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Dave Thompson) (Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Dave Thompson)
VIEW ORIGINAL

About SETAF-AF

SETAF-AF provides U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Army Europe and Africa a dedicated headquarters to synchronize Army activities in Africa and scalable crisis-response options in Africa and Europe.

Follow SETAF-AF on: FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeLinkedIn & DVIDS