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Chilean, Air Force medics share knowledge, experience

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
Air Force and Chilean medics are transitioning duties while sharing knowledge at the expeditionary hospital here March 22.

Since the hospital opened March 13, Chilean and Air Force medics worked side-by-side to treat more than 130 patients and perform 16 surgeries.

For many of the Airmen here, working in this field hospital with Chilean medics isn't much different from working in a hospital in the U.S.

"It's crazy how similar we are, but only separated by a language," said Senior Airman Alexander Balok, a surgical technician who participated in the first surgery with Chilean and Air Force surgeons. "It was very interesting seeing how they do things, compared to how we do things back home."

According to Maj. Yekaterina Karpitskaya, an orthopedic surgeon who participated in the first surgery in the EMEDS hospital, some techniques were so similar she and the Chilean surgeon would ask for the same instrument at the same time, but in English and Spanish.

"This made it a little confusing for our (technicians)," she said.

The similarities ease the transition for Chilean medics to take over the hospital, but the differences create an environment for sharing knowledge between medical professionals.

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Peter Drewes, a urology/gynecology surgeon, said he and his Chilean counterpart may use different equipment and different techniques, but it's the same surgical principles.

On one of our cases, I showed the Chilean surgeon a new incision that he hadn't really known that allowed us good exposure, without having to make a bigger incision, he said. In turn, he showed me a different technique that I found interesting. It's just another way of seeing it done. It's been an excellent experience.

Nine days into the 14-day operation, Chilean medics are becoming acclimated to the facility and equipment in the EMEDs hospital.

"Some of the equipment we use in the EMEDs hospital are things Chilean medics never used before; it's impressive how quickly they've learned," said Capt. LaKisha Albertie, the nurse manager of the inpatient ward. "They are ready to run this facility on their own."

"I am very proud to work with (Airmen) and share...the good camaraderie, and above all, share all the medical experiences which are very important to us and very fulfilling for our country and our people," said Chilean army First Sgt. Raul Rodriguez, a paramedic working at the EMEDS hospital.

The U.S. Agency for International Development Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance provided $8.6 million to support the expeditionary facility and staff for a 14-day operational period. U.S. government officials will formally hand over the facility to Chilean officials March 26.