Health & Safety

June 15, 2012

Smiles make long days worth it

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by Maj. Jessica Martin and Capt. Elizabeth Magnusson
926th Group and 944th Fighter Wing

Lt. Col. (Dr.) William Dunlap, 944th Medical Squadron dentist, extracts a tooth at a temporary clinic set up at a school in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The 944th Medical Squadron members partnered with Reserve and Guard members from nine other units last month on a medical humanitarian mission to the Dominican Republic. The 47-person U.S. team, made up of medical, dental, optometry and pharmacy personnel, provided care to more than 10,000 patients during their 15-day visit.

Reserve and Guard members from 10 units including the 944th Fighter Wing recently wrapped up a deployment to the Dominican Republic where they provided nonstop medical, dental and optical care.

Six months of preparation and two days of travel culminated in providing care to more than 10,000 patients in 15 days.

“There was a certain synergy between the members that made this operation a success,” said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Alfred Rossum, 944th Medical Squadron and commander of the medical humanitarian tour. “The integration of the units and squadrons was seamless.”

U.S. Southern Command asked Air Force Reserve Command to assist in a program that identifies and helps regions in need.

“I was pleased with the combined effort,” said Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Simmons, 944th Medical Squadron first sergeant. “The Airmen operated as if they had worked together for years.”

The 47-person U.S. team conducted a joint mission with the Forces Air Dominica. The medics worked up to 15 hours a day alongside the host service who provided security, transportation, translators and additional medical providers to help with the patient load.

The group addressed the needs of patients at four schools in Puerto Plata. Each location transformed into a temporary clinic which included medical, dental, optometry and pharmacy areas.

“Our medical team had two pediatricians, four general medicine physicians and one local general medicine doctor,” Rossum said. “Additionally, the medical staff had four nurses and eight medical technicians.”

That team saw more than 3,140 adult patients and about 1,500 pediatric patients, which was about 330 patients a day.

“Patients were assessed at triage then processed through to vital signs and finally referred to either pediatrics or general medicine,” Rossum said. “Once patients were diagnosed, they received medication at pharmacy.”

The dental team had three Air Force Reserve and one Air National Guard dental officers with three AFR dental technicians.

“They have nowhere to go for needs like dental and optometry care,” said Maj. Zachary Timko, 926th Aerospace Medicine Squadron and senior administrator for the trip.

The dental team saw 656 people during the trip and conducted more than 825 tooth extractions. One in four of the dental patients was younger than 12.

The optometry team consisted of three optometrists and one ophthalmic technician.

“Our optometry requested a local optometrist to help them keep up with the demand,” Rossum said. “We had an optometry and medical technician set up to conduct basic vision testing.”

If a patient’s vision was adequate, or only required reading glasses, the patient was given sunglasses and/or readers. Patients requiring more moved on to optometry care.”

The team saw more than 3,235 optometry patients and handed out more than 2,380 pairs of glasses.

The final piece was the pharmacy section which was staffed with a pharmacist, pharmacy tech, medical tech, an administrative tech and three volunteer interpreters.”

Work done prior to the trip was by Maj. Brian Sydnor, 56th Medical Group. He provided a pharmacy diagram and prescription templates with pre-packing and labeling that facilitated the dispensing of more than 9,800 prescriptions during the two weeks.

The Dominican Republic military personnel opened the visit with a military ceremony and ended it with a closing ceremony complete with a military band and a softball game.

As a thank you to the schools for hosting the clinics, members of the humanitarian team purchased baseball equipment which was presented to the students.




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