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Ear, nose, throat surgery expands New Horizons for Belize

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tony Tolley
  • New Horizons Belize Public Affairs
U.S. military medical personnel partnered with the Western Regional hospital here to conduct an ear, nose and throat surgery medical readiness training exercise from April 18 through April 30.

The 13-day medical exercise, called New Horizons, provides ear, nose and throat surgical procedures and hearing aids to patients who are most in need and meet the criteria for these services.
ENT surgery is the surgical treatment of diseases, injuries, or deformations of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck areas. The purpose of this type of surgery is to treat an abnormality or defect to those affected areas.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Quintin Hecht, audiologist from the 59th Surgical Specialty Squadron, Joint-Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, was enthusiastic about the opportunity to help the local community and learn from the Belizean staff.

"The staff in the hospital are very knowledgeable and we are able to learn and share ideas with them," said Hecht.

The U.S. medical team, consisting of two Army personnel and nine Air Force personnel, had to make a few adjustments to their temporary working environment. Equipment and supplies were brought from their units to turn the surgical area into a fully functioning operating room for the complex surgeries being conducted.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Brent Feldt, ear, nose and throat resident from San Antonio Military Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, has enjoyed the challenges it takes to work in an environment outside the United States.

"Being a surgeon in the Air Force, I have learned a ton about what it takes to work in austere conditions and working with a team of individuals from multiple bases that you have never worked with before." Feldt said. "Working with patients who don't speak the same language, and how to work around those problems can present obstacles in this type of environment."

Feldt also said nasal surgery can have a lasting effect and lead to a better lifestyle for the individual.

"What we are trying to accomplish here, is that we bring the same standard of ENT care to Belize as we would have in the United States," said U.S. Army Maj. Travis Pfannenstiel, ear, nose and throat doctor from San Antonio Military Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio.

To date, the ENT MEDRETE personnel screened 145 patients, conducted 10 operations and 74 audiology evaluations, and dispersed 33 hearing aids.

New Horizons is an annual joint humanitarian assistance exercise that U.S. Southern Command conducts with a partner nation. The exercise began April 1 and is scheduled to run until June 30. Personnel are also currently building four schools, providing surgeries for prescreened patients and providing dental services as part of the training.