An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Partners in Care: Medical assistance team treats patients, strengthens partnerships during LAMAT 2024

  • Published
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern)

A team of doctors, nurses, and health care specialists across several fields traveled to Suriname as part of a U.S. Air Force medical assistance mission, one that has helped better the lives of host nation citizens while showcasing the power of sharing skills and cultivating relationships.

Forty-two U.S. Air Force active duty and reserve personnel arrived Feb. 17 for a 12-day operation as part of the Lesser Antilles Medical Assistance Team, a mission meant to complement and assist care for patients across medical specialties, including dentistry, optometry, pediatrics, emergency health, primary care, and surgery.

The LAMAT medical team has had its share of success stories thus far. Among them, emergency physicians from both nations joined their ingenuity and clinical experience to help a 70-year-old Surinamese man in severe distress. The multi-national medical team created an improvised but effective thoracentesis procedure, one where a catheter is placed into the space around the lungs to drain harmful fluid.

The procedure worked, and the patient expressed a wave of relief after his breathing normalized. The entire medical team shared in marking the occasion a special achievement.

“This was a case of two medical teams from two different countries coming together to ultimately help the patient,” said Lt. Col. Jesse Wells, 349th Medical Squadron emergency physician. “The ingenuity and adaptability in how our host nation provides great care of their patients with limited resources is remarkable, and I’m happy our team was able to help in both this case and across our time during this mission.”

In addition to emergency room success stories, the LAMAT optometry team treated those in acute need of corrective vision, including Surinamese patients who had never seen an eye doctor before. In one case, a 10-year-old boy went from 20/80 vision, a moderate to high visual impairment, to normal 20/20 vision after optometry technicians assessed his needs and provided him with eyeglasses donated by a non-governmental organization.

“The first time patients get to see an eye doctor, it’s amazing and really brings home what we do for a living,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Suhr, 512th Aerospace Medicine Squadron optometrist. “The gratitude that we’re getting from the people of Suriname is amazing. I’ve had so many people embrace us and it makes me happy that we’re able to do this for this community.”

“Being able to provide services and care to people who are in need of those services is why I love what I do and will continue to serve,” said Suhr.

The collaboration between the U.S. military team in Suriname as part of LAMAT and their counterparts in the Suriname Armed Forces has also been valued by both U.S. members and the host nation military medical staff.

“I am confident that after this mission, we’ll be able to say LAMAT was a very positive experience,” said Lt. Col. Chevron Terborg, Suriname Armed Forces Military Hospital director. “This opportunity will be able to broaden the chance that the Surinamese population will be able to receive medical care and I hope we will be able to continue this mission and if possible, broaden it to other parts of the country.”

As part of the medical assistance mission, selected patients were identified in coordination with host nation hospital medical directors and physicians under the guidance of Suriname’s Ministry of Health, with cases aligned with the specialties of participating LAMAT members.

Further medical assistance teams under the LAMAT 2024 mission will work with host nations to serve patients in St. Lucia, St. Vincent, St. Kitts and Nevis through March 29.