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United in healthcare: Air Force medical assistance team works to help patients, strengthen partnerships

  • Published
  • By Capt. Danny Rangel
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern)

As Air Force medical providers from varying specialties fanned out across the island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis in the eastern Caribbean, the line between uniformed military members and partner nation medical staff began to blur.

“I had difficulty picking out our Air Force medics from our partners,” said U.S. Air Force Colonel Zoe Hawes, troop commander for the Lesser Antilles Medical Assistance Team in St. Kitts and Nevis, a team of medical providers delivering medical care across the country. “I watched as our medical practitioners worked as one team with local partners to help patients and provide excellent medical care, and I’m proud of the work they’ve done to take care of patients.”

The LAMAT mission in St. Kitts and Nevis is part of an Air Force effort across four countries to deliver medical assistance to communities in need while complementing local health systems. The 43 doctors, nurses, and technicians sent to St. Kitts and Nevis beginning March 18 supported local practitioners in performing surgery, treating emergency room patients, and delivering health education and training.

The medical teams have worked hard to integrate with local practitioners to deliver needed care in clinics and hospitals servicing the population of 54,000.

“Our team is here to provide medical support, training and resources for the medical and dental clinics in St. Kitts and Nevis,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Chan, 926th Aerospace Medicine Squadron dentist. “It’s been a very rewarding experience. We train and we prepare in our perspective units for this exact mission. This is a great opportunity for our medics, for our dental techs, and for our support team to plan this mission.”

During their 10-day mission, the LAMAT team visited local nursing homes and attended community health fairs, where they delivered specialized care and engaged with the local community on how best to take care of themselves and their families.

“We’re really just working together, learning from each other, and treating patients,” said U.S. Air Force Major Matthew Maynard, 96th Healthcare Operations Squadron emergency medicine physician. “It really is a community here. They truly care about their patients like they would their family members. It’s been eye-opening to work in such an environment where they exemplify complete care in their daily practice.”

The LAMAT team treated a wide range of patients during their time in St. Kitts and Nevis, including the treatment of patients suffering from asthma attacks, trauma victims, children with severe anxiety about dental care, and patients seeking hearing aids.

In one case, a medical assistance team member cared for a patient’s infant daughter while she received emergency care.

"It was an honor to hold her," said MSgt Lindsey Messner, 512th Aerospace Medicine Squadron emergency medical technician working at Alexandra Hospital in Nevis. "She was only three weeks old, and her mother was a young mother with little support. The mother was in distress in the emergency room and I believe caring for her baby gave her some comfort. Even though I didn't provide the baby with direct medical care, I think we made a huge impact."

Partner nation staff expressed their support for the LAMAT team and their work to complement the medical care in St. Kitts and Nevis with specialized care across different fields, including pediatric care.

“This week we had a school program where we served children, so it was very beneficial to us to have specialists,” said Dr. Charrancia Hamilton, a dentist at the Charlestown Dental Clinic in Nevis. “I would like to thank the U.S. Air Force for spending this time with us and giving us this experience. I have learned a lot and hopefully they come again soon.”

Previous medical assistance teams under the LAMAT 2024 mission worked with host nations to serve patients in St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname, with the overall LAMAT mission concluding March 29.