News: Afghan docs gain valuable skills through mentorship program
Story by Staff Sgt. John Wright
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - Afghan medical professionals graduated from a two-week mentorship program at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital Sept. 24, 2011.
The Afghan Trauma Mentorship Program is a joint effort between coalition partners and airmen from the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group at Bagram Air Field designed to familiarize Afghan medical professionals with modern medical procedures and equipment.
The intensive program was developed in partnership with the Afghanistan National Army Office of the Surgeon General, the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, Combined Joint Task Force-1, Task Force Medical East and CJTH.
"The goal is to mentor Afghan health care professionals at all levels in the delivery of medical care to promote an independent and self-sustaining medical infrastructure," said Dr. Abdullah Fahim Ezzat, Task Force MED (E), program director and medical cultural adviser.
One of the Afghan medical professionals that worked side-by-side with U.S. health care providers at CJTH was Capt. Nematullah, physician assistant, 2nd Brigade, 203rd Afghan National Army Corps.
"We learn a lot in this mentorship program," Nematullah said through an interpreter. "We saw modern medical equipment and learned how to use it. It was especially beneficial learning how to use cardiac monitors on patients; how to read them and be aware of the alarms."
Lectures and hands-on instruction during the trauma program included airway management, pharmacology, traumatic brain injury, burns, x-ray interpretation and nutrition in trauma patients.
"We had good instruction on how to treat a wide range of illnesses and symptoms," the Afghan physician's assistant said. "The hands-on portion was very technical. The teachers here are good providers, and there was a very good selection of lectures."
Senior Capt. Abdul Hadi, dentist, Afghan Border Police, 1st Zone Headquarters, was another of the Afghan professionals enrolled in the course. He welcomed the training since it provided him a way to use newly acquired modern medical equipment at his unit.
"Recently, we received a donation of 11 ambulances from United States Forces-Afghanistan," Hadi said. "However, nobody knew how to operate the modern equipment in the ambulances, such as the I.V. pumps and defibrillator. I learned how to use this equipment and will share this with my colleagues."
Hadi's new ambulances will be distributed throughout nine different kandaks (battalions), exponentially increasing the level of care he can help bring to his people.
"I will invite one of the doctors from each kandak to come to the program and gain valuable skills to provide better health care for our people and soldiers in uniform," Hadi said.
Nematullah also planned to share his new-found knowledge with his fellow Afghan medical professionals.
"When we get back to our facilities, we will carry this knowledge to our colleagues and help them to understand what we've learned," Nematullah said. "We will encourage them to come to this two-week course here so they can learn to provide better health care to our wounded warriors and soldiers."
Hadi saw the importance of working with U.S. and coalition forces as key to his country establishing a better health care system.
"The relation between our two countries is good," the senior captain said. "We are always helping each other. The U.S. is helping to provide a good health care system for us. They are always trying to help and assist us in the medical field. It's good that we are working together help solve our problems."
Fahim emphasized the importance of programs like the ATMP to establishing independence in the Afghan medical field.
"This program was established to train ANA so they will not be dependent on others for help," Fahim said. "U.S. forces will not be here forever in Afghanistan. Once coalition forces leave, all these hospitals will be handed over to Afghan doctors and technicians. When that day comes, the goal is to make sure there are no difficulties running the hospitals, and we will run them for the good future of Afghanistan."