By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Douglas Mappin
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 15, 2008 - With medical issues in the forefront for the Afghan National Army's leaders, more than 200 members of Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan and their Afghan National Army counterparts attended a four-day medical leadership conference at the National Military Hospital here Oct. 6. The goal of the Afghan-led seminar was to discuss, coordinate and plan future endeavors to improve the Afghan National Army 's medical readiness.
"We're here to bring together the ANA medical leadership from all over the country," Army Col. (Dr.) John Orendorff, medical chief for health care operations at the CSTC-A command surgeon's office, said. "The hospital commanders, corps and brigade surgeons and their American mentors are all here to strategize and make recommendations for the ANA's medical commands."
Setting the tone, ANA Surgeon General Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Zia Yaftali's opening remarks addressed the challenges facing the Afghan Army 's medical personnel, including shortages in personnel, distribution of the work force and logistical and medical supply problems.
"We face many challenges. Our biggest is a shortage of medical personnel. We are currently at 35 percent of the mandated doctors needed," Yaftali said. "We are trying to make better decisions. With the help of our mentors, we are learning to be better managers, but we look forward to your ideas and suggestions."
The mentors said the biannual seminar is a forum to make strategic plans with the goal of a self-sustaining, Afghan-led force.
"Much progress has been made in the past six months," Air Force Col. (Dr.) David Hall, CSTC-A command surgeon, told the ANA participants. "The progress you have made is important not only to you, but to those of us serving with you from the United States."
Brigade commanders presented their command's obstacles, accomplishments, recommendations and goals, said Air Force Lt. Col. Christine Taylor, the seminar's coordinator.
In spite of hardships, commanders in the ANA's regional security integration commands have come up with innovative means of accomplishing their mission, Yaftali said. Medical staffs are providing better medical training for nurses; have developed an electronic outpatient register to better track patients; are conducting mass casualty evacuation and emergency-response programs; have implemented new nutrition programs and are using annual staff evaluations to improve patient-doctor relationships.
"While there are many problems for us to address, we promise you that we will work together and not leave you until our job is completed," Hall said. "There are no problems here that we cannot work out together."
(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Douglas Mappin serves in the Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan Public Affairs Office.)