Capt. Christine Waasdorp, the first full-time pediatrician at the Camp Humphreys medical clinic.

Capt. Christine Waasdorp, the first full-time pediatrician at the Camp Humphreys medical clinic. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — A full-time military pediatrician offering complete medical care for children in Area III has set up shop in the medical clinic here.

Army Capt. Christine Waasdorp, who just completed a three-year residency at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., arrived in South Korea last month and originally was assigned to the pediatric clinic at Yongsan Garrison.

But military medical officials decided it was time to have a permanent pediatric presence south of Seoul.

With a small but growing population of children — and the possibility that hundreds more families will move south in a reorganization of U.S. forces on the peninsula — the timing seemed right, officials said.

“Nobody here had pediatric training and most of the doctors are flight surgeons. So if children were brought in, they would assess them, see if they could help, then send them up to Seoul,” Waasdorp said while sitting in her office in the drab, concrete clinic. “It was really a burden on the families.”

Waasdrop said Area III has 300-600 pediatric patients, about half of whom are children of active-duty servicemembers.

Appointments at the new pediatric clinic already are booked weeks in advance, but Waasdorp says she should be able to handle the caseload. Generally, one full-time pediatrician can handle 600-1,000 patients.

“Yesterday, I had a patient every 20 minutes, so I had about 20 or 30 appointments,” she said. “The word is getting out.”

With the slated influx of several new commands from other area installations, the pediatric clinic is one among several Camp Humphreys changes.

In August, officials opened an elementary school.

And next month, work should be completed on an on-base, 52-unit housing tower, Humphreys spokeswoman Susan Barkley said.

By 2011, the military hopes to close camps Long and Eagle, and add to the population at Humphreys.

“All of that comes here,” Barkley said.

“The biggest challenges are going to be training the medics and the nurses, who aren’t used to treating young patients or assessing their health … and getting the word out that the clinic is here,” Waasdorp said.

Another challenge is one common to military medical facilities, especially in South Korea:

With the high turnover of both medical personnel and patients, it’s hard to develop a patient-doctor relationship.

“I’m here for a one-year tour, just like almost everyone else,” Waasdorp said. “So it will be important to keep as detailed files as possible for when another doctor comes in or the patients move on.”

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