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Discussing Maritime Medical Matters

NORTHWOOD, United Kingdom – The 20th NATO Maritime Medical Conference wrapped up May 19, offering senior naval and military medical officers from 23 nations four days to present and discuss military maritime medical topics.

Medical personnel from Algeria, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Turkey, and the United States met in Venice, Italy, where the Italian Navy hosted the Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) led conference.

Some of the representatives attending the conference discussed national medical updates as well as presented on geographic challenges and joint medical services for maritime medical support.

Two of the geographical areas featured were the Pacific Ocean and the polar/high north regions. While the regional medical conditions of hypothermia to heat stroke are on opposing ends of the spectrum for exposure injuries, the areas similarly face the challenge of vast distances to land and accessibility to medical rescue resources.

One area the U.S. Navy medical community is looking into is the capability of providing sustained and distributed medical support at sea, especially in war time conditions.

"One of many scenarios the medical community is looking into to be prepared is to provide the same level of life saving care that we were able to achieve in Iraq and Afghanistan and applying lessons learned from OEF and OIF,” said Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham, Deputy Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Readiness and Health. "We’re looking into WWII concepts, as it was the last sustained war at sea. We're developing surgical teams to set up on a DDG [destroyer] instead of relying on a medical ship to be there.”

Presenters also featured emerging changes in training, health surveillance, submarine escape and rescue (SMER) and telemedicine capabilities.

In addition to informing attendees about the evolution of SMER techniques, Director of Turkish Naval Medical Research Center Captain Ali Ihsan Gunerigok shared the Turkish Navy’s new capabilities for submarine rescue emphasizing the importance of a globally coordinated response for distressed submarines via the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office.

The topic enabled Gunerigok to provide insight into the upcoming MARCOM-led exercise Dynamic Monarch, which will feature complex medical scenarios during the submarine search, escape and rescue exercises.

Dynamic Monarch is scheduled for September 2017, but it’s not the only NATO exercise with a medical component on the horizon.

"During the last day, a speaker from Military Medical Centre of Excellence of Budapest highlighted MARCOM as an important maritime advocate for medical matters and emphasised the importance of NATO’s upcoming medical exercise Vigorous Warrior 2017, which with the endorsement of MARCOM, will feature maritime medical training for the first time,” said MARCOM Medical Advisor Captain Filippo La Rosa (Italian Navy), chair of NATO Maritime Medical Conference. "The training will focus on managing highly infectious diseases aboard ships.”

The medical conference occurred in conjunction with the 44th Medical Naval Panel Plenary, which discusses naval medicine topics to update NATO doctrine. In addition to the plenary, the presentations, networking and in-depth break out discussions offered many topics for attendees to discuss with their medical teams.

"We regularly communicate with our medical community, but we will brief them on the content of the conference during our weekly staff meeting. After conferences or meetings, we discuss new equipment, procedures or tactics and discuss what’s of value for us to implement or delegate out tasks from working groups,” said Deputy Fleet Surgeon of Royal Netherlands Navy, Commander Norbert Van Der Struys.

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