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OB/GYN team cares for Belizean women

U.S. Air Force Capt. Kaessee Brown, New Horizons obstetrician resident, assists a Belizean woman during a medical readiness training exercise, or MEDRETE, May 2, 2014, at the Isabel Palma Polyclinic in San Antonio, Belize. Belizeans received medical care through Belizean health care workers, as well as Canadian and U.S. military care providers. The MEDRETE offers medical health professionals from all three countries the opportunity to train and interact with one another while providing free health care to Belizean residents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar/Released)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Kaessee Brown, New Horizons obstetrician resident, assists a Belizean woman during a medical readiness training exercise, or MEDRETE, May 2, 2014, at the Isabel Palma Polyclinic in San Antonio, Belize. Belizeans received medical care through Belizean health care workers, as well as Canadian and U.S. military care providers. The MEDRETE offers medical health professionals from all three countries the opportunity to train and interact with one another while providing free health care to Belizean residents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar/Released)

PUNTA GORDA, Belize -- A female team of two deployed to Central America in support of New Horizons Belize 2014 to provide obstetric and gynecological care to Belizean women.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Ivette Suber and Capt. Kaessee Brown are both stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, where they work in the labor and delivery section at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, but their time in Belize was spent in a different San Antonio; they both set up operations in the Isabel Palma Polyclinic in San Antonio, Belize, a small town in the southern Toledo District.

Suber and Brown joined a team of doctors, nurses, technicians and educators from Belize, Canada and the U.S to provide free medical care to Belizeans. The care was provided as part of New Horizons Belize 2014, an annual exercise held in Central America, South America or the Caribbean that offers international partners an opportunity to train to deploy while operating in a humanitarian capacity.

"Our function is to take care of women's health in this area," Brown said, referring to any woman in the Toledo District able to travel to the polyclinic. "That includes gynecological, as well as some obstetric, care using what medicines and equipment we brought and have available here.

"Most ladies here get prenatal care to some extent," she added. "We have diagnosed several miscarriages and scheduled follow-up treatment at the polyclinic. We've also prescribed medications for cycle regulations and quality of life, ruled out ovarian cysts, and done some dating ultrasounds and anatomy scans."

As things often do in different countries, the types of medicine, equipment and capabilities varied from what Suber and Brown were accustomed to using in the U.S. Having to adapt has been good training for Suber, but has been exceptional training for Brown, considering she is still in her residency.

"Every day, we've done something a little outside of our comfort zone," Brown said.

"Not because we don't have the skills," Suber added, "but because we don't have the same things we're used to having at home."

Suber, who has been in the military for eight years, and Brown, who has been in for four, combined their knowledge and experience to provide the best care possible for the Belizean women seeking care. But it all wouldn't have been possible without the assistance of their Belizean counterpart, Dr. Peitra Arana, from the polyclinic.

"She's been an integral person for our clinic to integrate with their clinic," said Brown, a graduate of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

"It seems like she knows almost all the patients, too," added Suber, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston graduate. "And that really helps."

It is both a first deployment and a first humanitarian mission for Suber and Brown; and as a major first, they are both seeing things that surprise and delight.

"I am amazed by (the Belizean women's) pain tolerance. Their strength is so admirable," said Suber. "I also think it's fascinating how they live off the land and to see how resourceful they are."

Brown was awed by their overall culture way of life, she said.

Both Suber and Brown found themselves working side by side in Belize; and while their paths crossed, the starts to those paths are quite different.

Brown joined for the distinction from her classmates.

"I was already in med school when I joined," Brown said. "I joined because I wanted to do something different from my colleagues. ... I think the time I spend in the military will serve me well."

And Suber joined for the education benefits.

"I never grew up thinking I wanted to do this, to be in the military. Now, I'm thinking about doing the full 20 years -- something I never thought before that I would do," Suber said. "After being in for a while, I've definitely gained an appreciation for what people sacrifice to be in the military."


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