CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — More than 120 health-care workers gathered at the Butler Officers’ Club in the Plaza Housing area for two days this week for professional training and to discuss the latest in medicine.

The fifth annual Pacific Pearl Health Care Symposium, sponsored by the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, took place Monday and Tuesday and was open to all base health-care workers on the island, according to Lt. Cmdr. Stephanie Pridemore, event chairwoman. Attendees included doctors, nurses, corpsmen, social workers and school nurses.

Under discussion were 23 topics, from effects of deployments on the military to avian flu. Attendees also earned continuing education credits/units toward maintaining their licenses, said Navy Lt. Mary Anker, a symposium committee member.

Health-care workers “have to have so many credits or units per year,” Anker said. “It’s hard for us to get back to the States for training.”

She said sending one person back for a similar event could cost up to $5,000.

The symposium is important “because we are in such a unique situation since we’re overseas and isolated,” Pridemore said. “It gives us an opportunity to showcase our experts and at the same time we are able to give those continuing-education credits.”

One unit or credit was given for every presentation attended, Anker said.

Arlita McClintock, the coding auditor for Kadena Air Base’s 18th Medical Group, said that during the two-day symposium, she was able to obtain 11 units toward the 20 she’s required to complete each year by the state of Texas.

McClintock said attending the symposium two years ago “really helped me with keeping my nursing [continuing education credits] current.” Her only other options, she said, would have been to fly back to the States or acquire the credits by distance education.

She said traveling for the training is costly and she dislikes distance education’s lack of interaction, although that’s how she plans to acquire her remaining nine units this year.

Military members and their families also will benefit from the symposium, Pridemore said, as the medical professionals “can provide them with more up-to-date, evidence-based medicine … we can pass that along to the beneficiaries.”

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