NEWS | June 20, 2016

Pacific Angel 16-2 Medics Work to Bring Medical Care to Kampot, Cambodia

By Senior Airman Omari Bernard U.S. Pacific Air Forces

KAMPOT PROVINCE, Cambodia -- A hospital is a place of healing and recovery. It is a sanctuary where medical treatment can be found and provided for the sick or injured. Thanks to Pacific Angel 16-2, the quality care found within a hospital is now being given to the people of Kampot Province, Cambodia.

Medical professionals from multiple nations and agencies across the globe have come together in a multilateral effort to promote interoperability with partner nations while delivering humanitarian aid to people of Kampot.

The Royal Cambodian Armed Forces work alongside their U.S., Thai, Vietnamese, and Australian counterparts to provide care during Pacific Angel 16-2, a humanitarian assistance/civil-military operation mission that not only involves militaries from five different nations, but non-governmental organizations such as Project Hope and East Meets West are also lending aid.

The majority of the medical supplies were purchased in Thailand and Vietnam, flown in to Cambodia, and then bussed to a local school grounds where the Pacific Angel medical team was able to set up their first site during the humanitarian mission.

Teams of medical professionals set up centers for pediatrics, physical therapy, pharmacy, optometry, dentistry and general/preventative health. Each center is manned with medics and doctors working with each other and their translators.

“Obviously the language barrier is difficult to overcome at times, especially when you’re working in a professional setting prescribing treatment,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Kanter, a dentist deployed from U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “Everyone has been patient. The people are very warm and welcoming here in Cambodia.”

Kanter said working alongside the dentists from the Royal Cambodian Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force has opened his eyes to different ways to treat his patients, making the partnership exchange mutually beneficial. 

“Even though we are in one specified field, it’s amazing how other people will approach things both differently and similarly,” he continued.
Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigadier Gen. Candara Vuth, deputy director of the health department within the Ministry of National Defense, said, “We are happy to work together with the U.S. and the other nations to bring aid to the people of Cambodia.”

According to Vuth, some of the people that live far from the province are very poor and sometimes they can’t go to the hospital in the province. So they rely on natural remedies like some of the trees that grow around Cambodia. 

“Being out in the field, you miss some of things you use when you are practicing medicine at home,” explained RAAF Flight Lt. Rowan McCarthy, Pacific Angel 16-2 general health medical officer. “We can’t order a blood test or conduct x-rays. We don’t know much about the back history of these patients.”

According to McCarthy, it’s normal to see a 60 to 70-year-old patient back home with a medical history. 

“Here they may have never seen a doctor before,” he continued. “So going without that makes it more of a challenge but interesting as well.”

With that knowledge in mind, care providers like McCarthy overcome these challenges by focus on the quality of care and attention to detail they gave to each and every patient. 

“It’s always good to find out how similar some people are,” said McCarthy. “Even though there are different languages and training backgrounds, everyone is pretty similar in our working toward a common goal.”

“I think it has been really good stepping back to clinically focused medicine – doing physical exams to figure out what is going on has allowed us to overcome some of the challenges we’ve had.” continued McCarthy. 

Most patients had their major concerns addressed and were impressed with the level of care provided by the teams of medical providers.

Sok Moeun, a Pacific Angel 16-2 dental patient, said that she was really happy with the care provided because she was able obtain the service at no cost, and check on her dental health at the same time.

“I am thankful for the multi-national team that was able to bring healthcare to my village,” she said.

Through Pacific Angel 16-2, medical providers from both Cambodia and other nations benefit by training and forging bonds and partnerships with each other. 

“This humanitarian mission will help prepare us in the future for relief operations here, or anywhere in the region,” Kanter said. “It helps to know the type of people you’re working with, who you’re going to be operating with. If you know what to expect going into a situation it can help you prepare.” 

Pacific Angel 16-2 allows multiple nations to work together so that in the event there was a natural disaster in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the region’s militaries are prepared to work together to address humanitarian crises.