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Belize City hospital coordinates with US military for New Horizons

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kali Gradishar
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern)
Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital has played a crucial role in the New Horizons Belize 2014 surgical readiness training exercises, or SURGRETEs, conducted in Belize City, Belize.

By providing not only the physical space to conduct surgeries, but also overseeing the patient selection process for those surgeries, KHMH staff members has helped ensure patient surgeries were prioritized for U.S. Air Force urological and gynecological surgery teams.

"The [Belize] Ministry of Health had been the main engineer for us to have this kind of conversation," said Dr. Adrian Coye, KHMH director of medical services and chief of cardiothoracic surgery, about the opportunity to host New Horizons. "Talking with my different services, we came to the conclusion that these two areas were in the greater focus and where a certain need was. ... Those were the gaps that I had identified within our services. "

With one urology care provider serving the country, "patients with more complicated urological and gynecological conditions, our expertise is limited in that sense. ... Our gynecology/obstetric department is far more robust," Coye explained. "It's been a great opportunity, then, that this New Horizons mission came about -- a great opportunity in the sense that we made the request for these two areas to be the focus of the New Horizons mission in Belize, as we have a wealth of experience in most of the other [specialties]."

The hospital, established in 1995, is the Belize's sole tertiary care center and receives the most complex cases in the country. Patients file in from the far north Corozal District, the far south Toledo District and everywhere in between to seek the country's most experienced specialists.

By working through the Belize Ministry of Health to allow the New Horizons teams to operate in the hospital, many opportunities are made available for both the Belizean and U.S. healthcare professionals. The experience has offered Belizean specialists the opportunity to collaborate and confer with others in their fields, while the U.S. military surgical team was afforded a distinctive opportunity to experience operating procedures in a different country.

"Personally, I think it's a very valuable experience from a training perspective," said U.S. Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Toby Lees, a urologist and a surgical team lead.

For one resident, it was his first time being out of the country while wearing the Air Force uniform. Performing surgeries in an environment to which he was unaccustomed offered an unforgettable chance to experience for the first time what it is like to have to adapt to a new environment.

"There is no greater feeling of satisfaction than learning something new," said U.S. Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Matthew Stringer, a fourth year urology resident.

Two teams for two-week rotations makes for four weeks of life-changing and potentially life-saving surgeries.

"I've seen the examples of New Horizons activities in the country, and what I saw in our operating room I was very happy about," Coye said. "I feel very happy about the experience because our patients are benefiting [the New Horizons exercise].

"I believe this has been a very successful venture so far," he added.