Medical team returns from Honduras mission
By Senior Airman Erin M. Peterson, 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 11, 2008
6/11/2008 - LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- A team of pediatricians, nutritionists and linguists from Wilford Hall and Brooke Army medical centers in San Antonio; Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, Va.; and South Dakota State University, S.D, recently returned from a 12-day expedition in Honduras.
The San Antonio Military Pediatric Center team travels to Honduras for a Pediatric Medical Readiness Exercise every four months as part of a survey study of malnutrition and anemia in children living in rural areas of the country, said Maj. (Dr.) Robert Elwood, a pediatric infectious disease specialist.
The missions are part of the requirements for the pediatric residency program at Wilford Hall.
"These missions provide unique and valuable training for our pediatric residents, both in military deployments as well as tropical medicine," said Doctor Elwood. "The Honduran Ministry of Health is briefed on the results of each visit, and they direct us to the regions where we work. We are currently working within the province of La Paz, near the town of Chinacla."
Honduran children are selected at random and team members drive and hike many miles to reach their homes in several geographical locations.
The team also holds a general pediatric clinic where treatment is provided for many different health problems.
The missions provide a realistic joint-field exercise to expose pediatric residents to conditions that are prevalent in underdeveloped countries, said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Vinod Gidvani-Diaz, the chief of pediatric hematology/oncology at Wilford Hall, who has completed seven missions to Honduras.
The team collects critical nutritional data for the Honduran Ministry of Health so it can divert resources to areas most in need. The exercise also supports United States regional foreign policy by meeting theater engagement goals and interacting positively with Honduran military and civilians.
"The most rewarding part of these missions is being able to help the kids and make a lasting impact," Colonel Gidvanidiaz said.
The 59th Medical Wing Commander Maj. Gen. Tom Travis stresses the importance of the unique missions in Honduras.
"The medical engagement missions are a great way to motivate and provide mission relevance for our residents. We are all extremely proud of what they are doing for patients on these missions," General Travis said.