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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Expeditionary Medical Facility (EMF) Juliet conducted its first orthopedic surgical partnership mission with Honduran healthcare professionals at Hospital Escuela during a Global Health Engagement in the U.S. Southern Command area of operations, Aug. 14-18.
Focusing on enhancing expeditionary core skills, the 10-person team completed 61 individual procedures at a Honduran level 1 trauma center in a resource limited environment with logistical support from Joint Task Force (JTF) Bravo.
“We worked very closely with the hospital and the local liaison on requirements to understand the needs of the local community and subspeciality care,” said Capt. Linda Smith, the commanding officer of EMF-Juliet. “It’s a very multifaceted mission evolution.”
This was also the first time that the U.S. Navy led an orthopedic surgical mission in Honduras, which provided the opportunity to enhance professional knowledge exchanges and strengthen Navy Medicine relationships and capabilities within a partner nation hospital.
“From the moment we arrived, one of the most valuable things from this mission was seeing how quickly we just started working together in the same operating room,” articulated Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Haldeman, an EMF-Juliet anesthesiologist from Allentown, Pennsylvania. “They trusted us immediately as partners.”
With the help of Honduran medical counterparts, cases were selected and prioritized by their complexity, strengthening opportunities for both U.S. and Honduran participants. The team members worked side-by-side with surgeons and residents at Hospital Escuela while alleviating the surgical backlog for many Hondurans in need.
“Once we were in the operating room, I worked with the same three surgeons on separate days,” explained Lt. Cmdr. Vanna Rocchi, an EMF-Juliet pediatric orthopedic surgeon from Oroville, California. “One of the most challenging cases was a severe tibia deformity on the lower leg. We did a deformity correction and the patient ended up with a nearly straight leg, which was the same length as the other side.”
Since 1993, SOUTHCOM and JTF-Bravo have organized and conducted Global Health Engagements throughout Central America and the Caribbean to increase readiness, validate medical expeditionary capabilities and strengthen partner nation relations.
EMF-Juliet leadership is working to expand missions in the U.S. Southern Command area of operations and next month they will support another JTF-Bravo-sponsored mission that will focus on urology.
“This mission has been a true partnership and exchange of knowledge with the Honduran medical professionals that we can also bring back and teach to others,” concluded Smith. “With this opportunity, we continue to be ready to deploy in austere environments with both our partner nations and joint forces.”
EMF-Juliet, established in September of 2022, provides health service support to full range military operations as expeditionary advanced base functional components during ground-based, air and maritime operations.
Naval Medical Forces Atlantic (NMFL), headquartered in Portsmouth, Virginia, delivers operationally focused medical expertise and capabilities to meet Fleet, Marine and Joint Force requirements by providing equipment, sustainment and maintenance of medical forces during combat operations and public health crises. NMFL provides oversight for 21 NMRTCs, logistics, and public health and dental services throughout the U.S. East Coast, U.S. Gulf Coast, Cuba, Europe, and the Middle East.
Navy Medicine – represented by more than 44,000 highly-trained military and civilian health care professionals – provides enduring expeditionary medical support to the warfighter on, below, and above the sea, and ashore.
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