Medical staff assigned to U.S. Navy Hospital Ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) met with Colombian military and civilian medical personnel to collaborate during subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE) at Battalion Córdoba military base, August 20, and University Hospital Julio Méndez Barreneche, August 26.
More than 90 medical personnel attended the discussions that aimed to increase cooperation between both the U.S. and the Colombian military and health care professionals.
"The intent is to ensure that we are an enduring partner with these nations and to build up interoperability, so that we can continue to work together in the future," said U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Connie Johnson, officer in charge of the Comfort preventive medicine unit.
The SMEEs focused on a variety of practices that included measures the Comfort medical professionals take to protect the health of service members and maintain mission readiness.
"It's an event of supreme importance because the U.S. military is teaching us many ways to prevent epidemic illnesses that all under-developed countries, like Colombia, have to confront," said Colombian Army Lieutenant Colonel Janeth Rosero Reyes, Colombian army director of general medicine at Battalion Córdoba.
Other important topics discussed included sanitation standards at medical sites and the importance of clean water.
"These exchanges end up having a much larger effect than just on the people who are attending," said U.S. Navy Commander Ken Sausen, psychologist assigned to Comfort. "Those people pass on that information to their students and to other providers, perhaps to other generations of providers, which then has a much longer and stronger effect."
During another SMEE, U.S. Navy nurses discussed their process for training within their community. This included evaluating their use of devices such as IV pumps, methods of infection prevention, and how well they communicate to other medical caregivers or patients.
"This SMEE presentation is focusing on different clinical skills that we find valuable to train our new nurses and corpsmen when they first show up to their facility, and they're just learning how to get started," said U.S. Navy Lieutenant Lauren Shuetz, a nurse assigned to Comfort. "We discussed some of those skills. Then we evaluated people on those skills and their ability to perform after their initial orientation."
Comfort's mission stop is accomplished through the efforts of medical and non-medical personnel. The Comfort team is comprised of military and civilian personnel from the U.S. and partner nations, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Peru, along with several U.S. and international nongovernmental organizations, creating a dynamic team capable of delivering a variety of services.
This marks Comfort's seventh deployment to the region since 2007. At each of the upcoming missions, the embarked medical teams will provide care aboard Comfort and at two land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partly by the increase in Venezuelan migrants.