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Story by Spc. Tyler Meister
SUKOTHAI, Thailand – Medical supplies may dissipate from the shelves but the knowledge to treat and utilize preventive care of long-term injuries and illness is paramount to seeing success. Worldly medical education was the focus of health care professionals attending the cooperative health engagement Feb. 13 at the Ban Sa la Kai Fub School as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2014 in Sukhothai province, Kingdom of Thailand.
The engagement, referred to as a CHE, was a two-day event of CG 14, a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored multinational, joint theater security cooperation exercise conducted annually in Thailand to build relationships between partner nations, and improve interoperability.
In total, 201 local community members attended the event and received valuable treatment and, even more importantly, education on how to treat and prevent future maladies.
Day one hosted an educational seminar where healthcare workers from around the world discussed how to combat the issues and concerns of the area with local medical providers. Medical personnel from all eight of the participating nations: People’s Republic of China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and the U.S., provided a brief to introduce common practices and share knowledge on the top medical problems the area faced.
“When planning this mission, I conducted site surveys to determine the needs of the local people and health care personnel,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. James Musnicki, the officer in charge of CHE operations. “I used the areas medical history and chief complaints to determine the top three medical problems we needed to address.”
Musnicki is with the 18th Medical Command from Fort Shafter, Hawaii. He planned this event from the beginning and was present every step of the way to ensure completion.
For this area, the top three concerns were enteric disease (intestinal issues such as diarrhea), upper respiratory and dermatology. These topics were the focus during the seminar and each nation was able to learn and compare their practices to best tackle and educate locals on the issues.
To best address the situation, teams from the eight countries were built to provide treatment and education to locals on day two of the engagement.
While each country provided about 4-6 doctors and nurses, Thailand provided the majority with 20 and the U.S. provided 12 medical personnel for a total of 59 medical professionals for the engagement.
Previous health engagements placed a large emphasis on the treatment of locals and trying to provide as much care as possible, according to Musnicki. These past experiences have shown that regardless of how much care is given, the local medical providers do not always have access to modern supplies and cannot maintain the same level of treatment.
Present and future engagements will have a larger focus on educating the local medical staff and villagers.
“We can bring supplies and pills to provide a temporary fix, but the bigger picture is having the opportunity to train the people on how to utilize this new education for the future,” said Musnicki.
From the outside, many people see what is being done and think it is great, according to Musnicki. Being able to strengthen partnerships and build friendships with other nations is the real benefit.
Musnicki explained disaster relief efforts of the future could bring together some of the same faces and friends, so the opportunity to develop a good working relationship now is vital for future endeavors.
“We try to leave a place (and the people) better when we leave,” said Musnicki.