KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan —
When he was a Marine Corps rifleman, Travis Fitzpatrick said he felt a sense of comfort when he went in harm’s way because he trusted the skills of his medical team to help out if anything went wrong.
Now a nurse anesthetist and a Navy lieutenant commander with NATO Role III Multinational Medical Unit, Fitzpatrick is able to help Afghan infantry soldiers feel that sense of comfort for their medical team at the Kandahar Regional Military Hospital.
The Kandahar Regional Military Hospital, which is located in Kandahar province, is ran by Afghan military and civilian medical professionals. The hospital provides medical care for Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and civilians.
Fitzpatrick and other medical officers from the Role III conduct routine medical training and case studies with the medical staff assigned to KRMH.
Training, Learning Together
“Some of the physicians at KRMH have very extensive training, they have very highly trained and professional individuals at that hospital,” said Fitzpatrick, who hails from Lincoln, Missouri. “I think by partnering up we can learn from each other to then be able to provide the best care for all patients.”
However, the idea to collaborate and train with the medical staffs of NATO Role III and KRMH isn’t new, according to Navy Capt. Cynthia Gantt, NATO Role III commander.
“Past rotations did outreach and training with the staff at KRMH,” Gantt said. “Once we got to country, we wanted to make sure we built upon what the other teams did and build a sustainment plan for others to continue.”
Gantt said the training does not just broaden the medical knowledge of her staff, but also brings awareness and understanding of the Afghan culture.
“We receive Afghan patients at the Role III and if we can increase our understanding of the culture it makes us more competent and we are able to provide relevant care to our Afghan patients,” she said.
Fitzpatrick, who recently taught an airway class to the KRMH medical staff, said he enjoys learning as much as he can from his Afghan counterparts.
“It’s interesting to see what process they go through in order to help their patients,” he said. “The way I do things isn’t the only way; I like to learn different techniques.”
As Gantt and her medical staff prepare to head back to the United States, she said it has been a great experience to work alongside Afghan medical professionals.
“I hope that my team is able to reflect on this deployment in the future and know they helped the Afghan community,” Gantt said. “It has been an honor and privilege to help increase the military health care system and support them as they continue to progress to provide better health care to their soldiers and civilians.”