Senior Airman Krystal Rodriguez, 455th Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron medical lab technician, gives members of the Afghan Trauma Mentorship Program a tour of the Craig Joint Theater Hospital laboratory on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb. 16, 2013. The Afghan doctors spent a month at the CJTH learning about the latest medical equipment and techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. David Dobrydney)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (March 3, 2013) — Even in the midst of conflict, it is important to keep an eye toward the future.
To that end, the Craig Joint Theater Hospital here has trained more than 40 Afghan doctors and nurses as part of the Afghan Trauma Mentorship Program.
“The goal is to train Afghan health care providers to be able to operate using the latest technology and methods…so they are able to provide the best health care possible for their countrymen,” said Capt. Claudia Niemiec, 455th Medical Operations Squadron critical care nurse, who was responsible for planning the most recent course under the program.
The classes usually have four students selected from medical facilities run by the Afghan National Security Forces, which includes the army and various police forces.
Over the course of three weeks, the students are immersed in every aspect of a modern hospital, from receiving a patient from an ambulance to operating room techniques.
Besides having all the latest equipment, the program also benefits from years of battlefield medicine.
“From a treatment standpoint, there are a lot of lessons that have been learned throughout the conflict here as far as trauma resuscitation, damage control surgery,” Niemiec said.
The students are often volunteers who have heard about the program from previous participants.
“Physicians we’ve had in the past have returned to their own hospitals and told their colleagues this would be beneficial to attend,” said Niemiec.
Identifying physicians interested in attending the course is done by Dr. Abdullah Fahim, medical and cultural advisor for the hospital. He works with the Afghanistan National Security Forces’ chain of command to gather information about the applicants for passing on to Force Protection.
“All these security sections have their own medical facilities and their own physicians,” Fahim said. “We have to train all of them so they will be independent to take care of their own wounded warriors and trauma patients.”
Niemiec added that working with their Afghan counterparts presents a great opportunity for the medical staff here. “We’re doing something that is going to have a lasting impact on the people here long after we’ve left,” she said.
At the graduation of the latest group to pass through the program, one doctor wished to express his appreciation.
“We’ve learned things we have not seen before that we will bring back to our hospitals,” said 1st Lt. (Dr.) Farooq Azam, an ear, nose and throat surgeon with the Afghan National Police. “We enjoyed our time spent at this great hospital and wish we could have stayed longer.”