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U.S., Vietnamese Service Members Share Humanitarian Aid, Medical Knowledge

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 12:58
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By Air Force 1st Lt. Kellie Rizer Pacific Air Forces
TAM KY, Vietnam, Sept. 12, 2017 — American and Vietnamese military members, along with several nongovernmental organizations, recently came together in Vietnam to attend seminars lead by subject matter experts who shared their knowledge on medical expertise and humanitarian assistance.
The Vietnam seminars are part of Operation Pacific Angel 17-2, also known as PACANGEL, which itself is one of a series of recurring civil-military missions hosted by U.S. Pacific Command consisting of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities, including medical health services outreach, engineering assistance programs and subject matter expert exchanges.
Held in Vietnam from Sept. 10-18, U.S. and Vietnamese military members have the opportunity to work in partnership with local nongovernmental organizations providing humanitarian assistance to the residents of Vietnam’s Tam Ky in Quang Nam province.
While the health services and civil engineering programs portion of the PACANGEL mission prepared to begin on Sept. 10, the U.S. subject matter experts kicked off information exchanges with their Vietnamese counterparts the week prior.
Variety of Medical Topics
The exchanges took place at medical facilities in Tam Ky and the Vietnam Air Defense Air Force Search and Rescue Center in Hanoi, and covered a variety of medical specialties including control and prevention of vector-borne diseases, emergency maternal and fetal care, medical aspects of water survival and management of metabolic syndromes.
Army Maj. Lewis Long, director of bio surveillance and entomology with Public Health Command Pacific at Camp Zama, Japan, worked with his Vietnamese counterparts, vector-borne disease control professionals, to capture and test local mosquitoes for the presence of malaria, dengue fever and other mosquito-spread diseases and pathogens.
“We demonstrated how the U.S. military conducts mosquito surveillance and methods for collecting mosquitoes for testing of mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue [fever],” Long said. “By focusing our training on the mosquito and not a specific pathogen or disease, we can do a better job controlling everything from dengue [fever] to Zika to other related viruses found worldwide.”
Vietnamese participants also emphasized the importance of the exchange’s topic and expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to collaborate with their U.S. counterparts.
“I’m an officer, but also a doctor,” said Lt Col Nguyên Thề Nghĩa, deputy chief of Internal Medicine at the Aviation Medical Institute. “My focus is in infectious diseases and there’s [currently] an outbreak of dengue fever in Vietnam, so this topic is quite important and has provided useful information to apply to my practice. I hope that this program can continue to develop a good friendship with the U.S. and help improve care facilities in both Vietnam and in the [Army] healthcare system.”
The close partnerships and collaboration shared throughout the exchange provided invaluable educational opportunities for both the U.S. and Vietnamese participants to work toward better control programs and, ultimately, the overall reduction of human suffering.
“Sharing this training builds capacity within both the U.S. and Vietnamese communities in how we handle vector-borne disease surveillance,” Long said. “Partnering and collaborating with our Vietnamese partners to understand how they deal with vector-borne disease at the local level, and within the military, helps strengthen our connection to the community and how we provide public health.”
Air Force Maj. Christopher Meinhart, medical director of the women’s health clinic and obstetrician gynecologist with the 35th Medical Group at Misawa Air Base, Japan, explained how the use of a realistic labor and delivery simulator during his exchange on emergency maternal and fetal care provided beneficial hands-on training to address labor and delivery issues found in both the U.S and abroad.
“The [labor and delivery] complications that we see in the U.S. and within the military health system are the same complications that they see here,” Meinhart said. “Combining teaching techniques through lectures, teamwork activities and adding in the realism of the simulator has shown to lead to the most improvement in the neonatal and maternal outcomes.”
Many Participants
Many participants traveled from the far edges of Quang Nam province, as far as 90 miles to Tam Ky, to attend the symposium focused on techniques for managing complicated labor and deliveries. Meinhart described the personal benefits he received through his participation in the symposium.
“Beyond the scope of my day-to-day practice and daily interaction with my own patients, it’s rewarding to work with other practitioners and impart some of the skill and knowledge I’ve gained over the years,” Meinhart explained. “It’s been both a humbling and fulfilling experience.”
PACANGELs have built positive relations through interactions such as these for the last decade in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Mongolia, Laos, Tonga, Nepal and Papua New Guinea.


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