Experts share insight at military medicine conference
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A U.S. Army surgeon tells how to treat blast injuries in Iraq. A doctor from Tel Aviv, Israel, talks about bus bomb victims. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force details medical relief in the wake of the December 2004 tsunamis in Southeast Asia.
“We want to hear about the real experience, not one borrowed from someone else,” says Cmdr. Vish Pothula, U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka’s director of surgical services.
Such is the working principle behind the Multi-National Military Medicine Conference. Now in its third year, the three-day event brings together experts from around the world to tackle issues facing military medicine. From Sept. 19-21 at Yokosuka, more than 250 people discussed issues including Operation Iraqi Freedom and the tsunami.
Attendance was roughly half American and half Japanese, Pothula said. The event got its “humble” start in 2003 as a way for Americans to foster communication with their Japanese colleagues, he added. But this year’s event added three more objectives to the mix: Widen the scope to all medical staff, bring in speakers from regional military and raise terrorism awareness.
“Terrorism injuries are different than war,” Pothula said. “Plus, a lot of the corpsmen are just out of high school and haven’t seen this kind of trauma. This is a good experience for them.”
For example, he said, a doctor from Israel spoke of the kinds of injuries medics likely would find on victims of a bus bombing.
“There are more head injuries because the passengers are civilians who aren’t wearing helmets but less torso injuries due to the bus seats,” Pothula said. “One little girl was considered ‘walking wounded’ because she only had a small puncture wound. But these homemade bombs often have nails and ball bearings: She had a fragment lodged in her brain.”
Working in a combat zone sounded exciting to Petty Officer 3rd Class Beatriz Beach, a hospital corpsman. The conference inspired her to look into working with the Marines, she said.
“You don’t have any time out there — you have to think on your feet. Sometimes you have to improvise,” Beach said. “Yet somehow they get everything done.”
Nurse Lt. j.g. Tony Martinez liked talking to military medics from other countries such as Japan and Australia, he said.
“We saw how comparable we are. It was a way to get everyone together to share what works and what doesn’t work,” Martinez said.
Another conference is planned for 2006.