By Air Force Capt. Dustin Hart
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 3, 2009 - The provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province conducted a medical assistance mission at the Hope of Mother School and Clinic in the province's Surkh Rod district Feb. 24. "The mission gave us a real sense of accomplishment," Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kyle Baker, the Nangarhar PRT's senior medic, said. "It was great to render aid to people who truly needed it, especially having the positive interaction with the children at the school. It was a mission the entire team felt was a positive, rewarding experience."
Along with Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Lackey and their Afghan counterpart, Baker helped to treat a variety of ailments ranging from minor sore throats and upper respiratory infections to more serious issues such as malaria.
In addition to the treatments, the team provided older patients with preventive health care lessons and gave selected leftover medicine to the clinic for future use by a local physician.
"The mission allowed us to use a lot of our career training," said Baker, who is deployed from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. "Both Josh and I have experience in pediatrics, and it really helped today."
The mission served as a positive experience for all involved, said Mina Wali, Hope of Mother director.
"The PRT's help today is a great encouragement to the students and their parents," she said. "By providing health care and health education, the PRT gave these people something much more valuable than money. This will also help encourage the parents to keep their children in school."
While this type of operation is rewarding for both the patients and PRT, the medical team's main mission is to assess, mentor and promote the current Nangarhar medical system. This includes working with existing clinics and hospitals to understand their needs and advise them on more efficient ways of conducting business.
"[Nangarhar medical officials] have a good plan of what they want from their medical system," Baker said. "They just need help executing this plan, and that is where our experience and exposure to new technologies can help."
For example, the medic said, the team often encounters energy issues when assessing district clinics. Instead of purchasing fuel generators to run the lights and medical equipment, the team recommends new, energy-efficient ideas such as solar panels.
Occasionally, Baker said, a situation like the Hope of Mother mission allows the medics to mentor their Afghan counterparts and treat patients simultaneously.
"It lets us give the Afghan doctors a taste of what to do, but also allows us to give a community a taste of good health care," Baker said. "That is exactly what we were able to give them today."
(Air Force Capt. Dustin Hart serves with the Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team.)