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Sailors, Afghan medical professionals team up to improve medical care

Navy Lt. Cdr. Travis J. Fitzpatrick, senior nurse for Kandahar Airfield NATO Role III Multinational Medical Unit, demonstrates a technique on how to clear the airway of a patient to Afghan medical staff members during a medical advisory visit at Kandahar Regional Military Hospital, Camp Hero in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Staff members from the Role III conduct routine visits to KRMH to train and advise Afghan medical staff. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield) Navy Lt. Cdr. Travis J. Fitzpatrick, senior nurse for Kandahar Airfield NATO Role III Multinational Medical Unit, demonstrates a technique on how to clear the airway of a patient to Afghan medical staff members during a medical advisory visit at Kandahar Regional Military Hospital, Camp Hero in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Staff members from the Role III conduct routine visits to KRMH to train and advise Afghan medical staff. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)

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KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — As a rifleman in the Marine Corps, Travis Fitzpatrick said he felt a sense of comfort when he and his fellow Marines went out in harm’s way because he trusted the skills of their medical team to help them 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 the Kandahar Province, is ran by Afghan military and civilian medical professionals. The hospital provides medical care for injured 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.

“Some of the physicians at KRMH have very extensive training, they have very highly trained and professional individuals at that hospital,” said the Lincoln, Missouri native. “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 the medical staff of the NATO Role III and KRMH isn’t something new, according to Navy Capt. Cynthia Gantt, NATO Role III commander.

“Past rotations did outreach and training with the staff at KRMH,” said Gantt. “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 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 counterparts.

“They have limited resources so it’s interesting to see what process they go through in order to help their patients with what they have,” he said. “The way I do things isn’t the only way, I like to learn different techniques especially if less resources can be used.”

As Gantt and her medical staff prepare to head back to the United States, she said it has been a great experience for her and her staff to work alongside Afghan medical professionals at the KRMH.

“I hope that my team is able to reflect on this deployment in the future and know they helped the Afghan community,” said Gantt. “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 healthcare to their soldiers and civilians.”

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