By Capt. John Kimbrough, Mississippi Army National GuardMarch 25, 2012
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (March 25, 2012) -- While working together during U.S. Army Africa-hosted Medical Accord Central 12 exercise March 5-16, U.S. and Gabonese military physicians were allowed the unique opportunity to learn and grow together, and through this process realized just how much they have in common.
One significant common thread connecting the nurses and physicians of the U.S. Army Reserve 94th Combat Support Hospital, or CAS, and members of the Gabonese Military Health Services is the understanding that although a career in medicine can be rewarding, to get there is a long and arduous journey.
"One thing I have noticed is the nurses of both groups have realized how many shared experiences they have, and physicians realize the commitment to the general practice of medicine is the same," said Col. Paul Phillips III, an orthopedic surgeon with the 94th Combat Support Hospital of the U.S. Army Reserve.
Phillips said missions like this offer his team an opportunity to experience the challenges many of their counterparts face on a daily basis.
American doctors recognize the differences in resources between the two medical teams and assess, then adjust the training focused to increase the experiences and capacity of the Gabonese physicians.
Like physicians in the U.S., Gabonese doctors spend many years in school and are committed to ongoing professional development.
"We go to school 21 years total, with eight years in medical school, but we are always learning," said Capt. Fidele Miyabe, Gabonese Military Health Services doctor.
For the Gabonese, working alongside medical personnel from another country can be both rewarding and reassuring.
"We like working with other doctors. It is good to know we are familiar with many of their techniques, and it is also good to refresh and learn together," said Lt. Stephane Oliveira, a physician with the Gabonese Military Health Services.
While the first week consisted of lectures on topics including combat stress, burn injuries and the many types of trauma doctors must be prepared for, the second week gave the participants a chance to team up and navigate their way through a large-scale disaster response.
"The practical exercise was mutually beneficial; we were able to mix our plan with the Gabonese plan so it was a learning experience for both of us," said Maj. Billy W. Wooten, assistant chief nurse with the 94th Combat Support Hospital.
The exercise involved manning multiple points to facilitate receiving and treating patients, as well as simulating the hectic environment medical teams often find themselves thrust into during both man-made and natural disasters.
"Overall this exercise really helped all of us better understand their assets and capabilities highlighting what the Gabonese bring to the table," Wooten said.
Once the exercise is complete, a closing ceremony will end the event and all participants will leave with a better understanding and appreciation for the challenges their brothers and sisters in the military medical profession face.