Medics gather for Yokosuka military conference
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Caring for injured soldiers, sailors and civilians is one area in which militaries share secrets, not keep them, Dr. Koji Sensaki observed Monday at Yokosuka Naval Base.
“Unlike other parts of the military, medicine is not a secret,” said Sensaki, medical department director of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force office in Tokyo. “For us, it’s beneficial to exchange information between countries.”
In that vein, about 80 medics from three continents were gathered this week to discuss caring for troops in the world’s hotspots overseas — and, in some Navy cases, underseas.
This is the Multinational Military Medical Conference, which started Monday and was to wrap up Wednesday. Doctors from all over the world were talking about what’s happened on the medical front in the last year, from humanitarian missions in Pakistan and Indonesia to suicide bombers in Israel, from undersea medical centers to the 2005 Japan Railways train accident in Amagasaki.
Several sessions revolve around the war in Iraq, including lessons learned about surgery in the “the sandbox” and what the professionals have seen in terms of physical and psychological trauma.
On Monday, maxillofacial surgeon Capt. John LaBanc related his experience about the unexpected number of children he saw during his deployment to Iraq. One 6-year-old patient was used as a human shield by her father, he said.
“She actually got a visa, went to the States for reconstructive surgery and was treated at no charge,” LaBanc said. “Her story had a good outcome. But we see these human shields all the time … and it tears your heart out.”
U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka started holding the conference four years ago to improve communication with the Japan Maritime and Ground Self-Defense forces, hospital commanding officer Capt. Michael Krentz said Monday.
“The idea was to enhance cooperation and networking between the U.S. and Japanese military,” Krentz said. “It was a modest goal as each year this gets bigger and bigger due to the enthusiastic response.”
It’s also a chance for less experienced nations to benefit from the U.S. military’s time in the field, noted organizer Cmdr. Vish Pothula, U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka’s director of surgical services.
“Good or bad, the U.S. probably has the best knowledge of military medicine based on our experiences,” Pothula said. “Other countries don’t have that kind of exposure.”
This year’s speakers come from military and civilian components in the U.S., Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Israel and Mauritius.