Airmen Mentor Afghans At Regional Hospital
(February 17, 2010)
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (2/12/2010 - AFNS) -- At the
Kandahar Regional Military Hospital in Afghanistan, Afghan
patients are situated in wards, the intensive care unit, the
operating room or the emergency room. Afghan doctors and
nurses stroll throughout the building reading charts, caring
for patients and performing operations. Right next to them
are American medics, watching and mentoring.|
|Maj. Joey Burks watches as doctors clean the amputated leg of an Afghan National policeman Jan. 30, 2010, at the Kandahar Military Regional Hospital in Afghanistan. Major Burks is an operating room nurse mentor. U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nancy Hooks
Col. Lorn Heyne is the chief of the medical embedded
training team for the Kandahar Regional Military Hospital at
Camp Hero, Afghanistan. He has a team of 10 medics,
including two doctors, who must teach the Afghan medical
staff as much as they can within six months. |
This is the fourth team of medical mentors who have been in
this two-year-old hospital.
As their morning began Jan. 30, Afghan and American doctors
sat together in a meeting to discuss important issues.
Junior Afghan doctors reported to senior Afghan doctors on
problems or changes within patients.
Next, they performed rounds, walking throughout the
hospital, checking on each patient's status.
Lt. Col. (Dr.) Mark Antonacci, a physician mentor, and Capt.
(Dr.) Ryan McHugh, an anesthesiologist mentor, and the
Afghan doctors discussed each patients' symptoms and
"This gives them the opportunity to learn how to manage each
person's case," Colonel Heyne said. "They'll talk about what
transpired over the last 24 to 48 hours and if anything
needs to be done differently, such as medication therapy or
Their first stop during their rounds was the intensive care
The year-old ICU was recently lauded by Abdul Siawash, the
Afghan office of the surgeon general deputy surgeon, as the
best in the country.
"We're very proud of the ICU capabilities that we've offered
the Afghan warfighters," Colonel Heyne said. "The American
mentors have helped develop this ICU capability and have
taken it from nothing to what one deputy surgeon has called
the best in the country."
On this particular morning, there was one patient in the
"As future operations begin, we expect to have a lot more,"
Colonel Heyne said, referring to the upcoming increase of
coalition forces within the region.
Next, they visited the hospital's four wards that mostly
contained patients needing orthopedic attention or surgery.
One patient had a bone infection in his foot.
"They don't have any other treatment, so they have to
amputate it," an interpreter explained.
Another patient had an appendicitis.
"He did not get to the hospital on time, and so he has to
have surgery," the interpreter said.
As the group of physicians continued their rounds another
group of medical team members surrounded an elderly woman
who had just been admitted to the hospital's emergency room.
The woman, who was about 70 years of age, had a stroke and
became unconscious after a fall.
Captain McHugh rushed in to oversee all that was being done
for the woman. He asked questions of her condition and what
"Has she ever had heart problems before?" he asked the
To the Afghan physicians he asked, "Which monitor did you
"This is the good monitor we want to use on her," he
"Good job putting the oxygen on her," he said to the Afghan
Senior Airman Benjamin Spittler, who served as a mentor for
emergency room procedures, placed electrocardiogram leads on
the woman's lean body. Without much body mass, he made sure
not to place the leads directly on her bones. He explained
his actions to the Afghans as he did this.
"You should probably put them on and then teach them
afterward," Colonel Heyne said.
"Our mission is not 'to do' (medical procedures)," Colonel
Heyne said. "Our mission is to mentor and advise the Afghan
providers. As we do different medical techniques, we
verbalize what we're doing with the interpreter to help the
Afghans learn the Western technique of doing something.
We're not here to provide Western medicine. We're here to
enhance the medical capabilities they have now. We
accomplish our mission by teaching them as patients come in
and through mentorship."
The doctors discussed transporting the patient to the
Kandahar Airfield Role III Hospital for a computed
tomography scan of her head. This would also provide an
opportunity for one of the Afghan doctors who showed
interest in learning about neurosurgery, to better learn how
to read a CT scan.
"This is a pretty typical day," Colonel Heyne said.
"Sometimes we have mass casualties as operations start to
take place. My first day, we had two mass casualties. The
first one had 18 patients, the second one had 16 patients.
They were both within an hour of each other. It can be very
hectic at times, but they are learning and doing a very good
job of patient management."
As the doctors continued their rounds to one of the last
wards, Dr. Shimwari, an Afghan orthopedic doctor, pointed
out a patient who seemed to have a unique situation.
The patient was shot in his thigh approximately eight months
prior. The injury didn't heal correctly.
"Now he has a deformity, which can be seen when he walks and
he wants the doctor to fix it for him," an interpreter said.
"His leg is also short and (Dr. Shimwari) wants to elongate
his leg to fix it."
"We're fortunate here in Kandahar to have one of the best
Afghan National Army orthopedic doctors," Colonel Heyne
said. "Dr. Shimwari does an outstanding job."
When an Afghan National policeman from the Helmand District
lost his leg after hitting an improvised explosive device he
was told he would be transferred to Kabul. He requested
instead to be sent to Kandahar because of the expertise that
existed there and knew of the capabilities of Dr. Shimwari.
A diverse team of mentors work to provide as much mentoring
as possible for the Kandahar Regional Military Hospital. The
pharmacy trainer mentors in the laboratory and also works
with the dentist. In addition, a Canadian dentist visits
from the Kandahar Role III Hospital to augment the dental
mentoring team. The medical service officer mentors the
administrator. The medical administration technician mentors
the patient administrator. And the medical logistics
technician mentors the logistics depot.
"Hopefully, our team will expand as time goes on and we'll
be able to provide mentoring in more disciplines," Colonel
"We have some young doctors who are learning; some graduated
from medical school last summer," Colonel Heyne said. "They
are really doing a very good job in their off duty time in
listening to our mentors as they do rounds and continuing
medical education. They really have a desire to learn, to do
better and to promote healthcare in the Afghan National
Because many of the Afghan doctors have private practices,
each time they do a continuing medical education class gives
them an opportunity to learn and to go downtown and teach
others who are within their practice, such as civilian
nurses or civilian doctors.
"It's an opportunity for them to teach them what we taught,"
Colonel Heyne said. "It builds capacity within the Afghan
healthcare system, not just the Afghan National Army, but
also the whole Afghan health system. With this capacity they
can treat the Afghan better in their clinics. We're excited
about what we do here because we're not just helping the
Afghan National Army, we're helping all of Afghanistan.
Hopefully, when we leave, we'll leave a part of the
knowledge base that we have in Western medicine."
The doors of the Kandahar Regional Military Hospital are
open to treat all Afghan National Army, Afghan National
Police and civilians. There is also a women and children's
health clinic available Tuesday mornings.
"A lot of the Afghans will only take care of people from
their own tribe, from their own organization," Colonel Heyne
said. "However, Colonel (Abdul) Baseer (Elaj) has opened his
doors to see anyone if they are injured, if they are sick or
if they need to see a doctor. Kudos to Colonel Baseer for
opening those doors."
Colonel Baseer is the commander of the Kandahar Regional
The hospital doors have also been opened to treat Taliban
members, who are treated as any other patient, but are held
in a detainee room.
An interpreter recalled when the Afghan 205th Corps
commander visited patients within the hospital, he also
visited a Talib patient.
He asked, "How are the people? How do you find the Americans
in this hospital?"
The Talib replied through the interpreter, "They are really
good. They treated me and I just cannot believe it. Look at
what they've done for me."
When the commander said, "They've taken care of you, now
what are you going to do?"
The Talib responded, "I pray for them."
USAF SSgt. Angelique N. Smythe|
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News Service
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