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U.S. and Sri Lankan dentists exchange techniques onboard USNS Mercy

TRINCOMALEE, Sri Lanka (May 1, 2018) Dental staff assigned to Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and Sri Lankan dentists, collaborate with each other during a dental procedure aboard Mercy. PP18’s mission is to work collectively with host and partner nations to enhance regional interoperability and disaster response capabilities, increase stability and security in the region, and foster new and enduring friendships across the Indo-Pacific Region. Pacific Partnership, now in its 13th iteration, is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelsey Adams

Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific

TRINCOMALEE, Sri Lanka – U.S. and partner nation service members participating in Pacific Partnership 2018 (PP18) hosted both civilian and Sri Lankan Navy dentists and orthodontists aboard Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) for a dental subject matter expert exchange (SMEE) symposium May 1.

During this exchange, dentists and orthodontists assigned to the Mercy for PP18 and the Sri Lankan Navy conducted lectures about dental forensics, dental space infections, preventative medicine, caries disease process, and spoke about the similarities and differences in treatment between all the partner nations.

“This dental SMEE gave our team aboard Mercy and Sri Lanka dental professionals a unique opportunity to understand and learn how someone else in the dental field operates,” said Lt. James Low, event lead for the dental SMEE assigned to Mercy for PP18. “It provided a unique perspective reminding us that although we are from different places and have been trained differently, all of our countries face a lot of the same trials and constraints. Our time together on board sparked conversations about how we can work together to help find solutions to our common issues in the future.”

After the lecture portion, the team of Sri Lankan oral surgeons and dentists worked alongside PP18 dental staff to treat patients and learn from one another in a clinical setting. Together, the multinational team treated four Sri Lankan patients with one of the patients undergoing oral surgery to have a tooth extracted while aboard the Mercy.

“I feel very grateful for the opportunity I had to participate in this SMEE,” said Lt. Bethany Brooks, a native of Littleton, New Hampshire who is a dentist aboard Mercy for PP18. “I am from a small town, and I never would’ve imagined that I would get to experience learning from and working alongside doctors from foreign countries. This experience has opened my eyes to the fact that even though we all train in a different educational system and speak different languages we are all united in doing the best we can for the people we treat. It is a very humbling and exciting experience to participate in events such as this.”

During the clinical portion of the SMEE, Sri Lankan Navy dental residents were invited to observe dental operating and clinical rooms where patients were treated. The residents interacted with the dentists and oral surgeons by asking questions, to which the dental staff would demonstrate the correct technique to them.

“It was an honor to have participated in the event today, and in PP18 overall,” said Low. “Watching the interaction that took place between U.S. dental staff and our partner nations showed me the power of a sharing knowledge with one another. It made me realize that everything we are doing and discussing on the PP18 mission has the potential to impact lives in the future. I am excited to see what the future holds for the U.S. and all our partner nations.”

Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral disaster response preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. This year’s mission includes military and civilian personnel from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Peru, and Japan.

USNS Mercy made previous stops in the 2018 mission in Bengkulu, Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and are currently in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. After departing Sri Lanka, USNS Mercy will make mission stops in Vietnam and Japan strengthening alliances, partnerships, and multilateral cooperation throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

Pacific Partnership 2018 consists of more than 800 U.S. and partner nation military and civilian personnel working side-by-side with host nation counterparts to be better prepared for potential humanitarian aid and disaster response situations.

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