Afghanistan — Trainers Build New Afghan Health System

WASHINGTON — For hands-on med­ical pro­fes­sion­als it is very dif­fi­cult to stand back and watch oth­ers deliv­er care. Yet, that is pre­cise­ly the job of some 250 mem­bers of a nine-month-old med­ical train­ing advi­so­ry group serv­ing in Afghanistan.

“That is our path­way to tran­si­tion here, to help the Afghans per­form and to increase their capa­bil­i­ty, not by doing [it] for them, but rather by advis­ing them and step­ping back,” U.S. Air Force Col. (Dr.) Schuyler K. Geller said dur­ing a Sept. 2 “DoD Live” Blog­gers Round­table discussion. 

Geller is the com­mand sur­geon and com­man­der of the med­ical train­ing advi­so­ry group at Camp Eggers, NATO Train­ing Mis­sion-Afghanistan/­Com­bined Secu­ri­ty Tran­si­tion Command-Afghanistan. 

Geller said one of first things incom­ing advi­sors get is a med­ical mentor’s man­u­al that describes their role, “not as a clin­i­cian, not as a nurse, not as a tech­ni­cian, but as a trainer.” 

He said men­tors are often embed­ded in Afghan army and police hos­pi­tals, and at region­al hos­pi­tals. The largest facil­i­ty and the pre­mier train­ing insti­tu­tion for Afghan nurs­es, doc­tors and com­bat medics, Geller said, is the 400-bed Nation­al Mil­i­tary Hos­pi­tal in Kabul. 

The time and effort required to become pro­fi­cient in med­ical fields is inten­sive, Geller said. For instance, he said, “the physi­cians’ train­ing pro­gram in Afghanistan takes a 12th-grad­er and puts them through a sev­en-year train­ing program.” 

Geller said offi­cials are work­ing to recruit more Afghan doc­tors, nurs­es and oth­er med­ical spe­cial­ists to bol­ster the country’s med­ical force. 

He point­ed out that the goal is not just to train Afghan health care work­ers, but to train them as instruc­tors who will be able to car­ry on and sus­tain the effort independently. 

Geller cit­ed impres­sive progress on that front. 

“We will be able to tran­si­tion in Octo­ber the com­bat medic train­ing, the med­ical officer’s basic train­ing, the med­ical sergeants or NCO train­ing pro­gram and the logis­tics train­ing pro­gram, entire­ly over to the Afghans,” he said. 

Geller said he antic­i­pates com­plet­ing the tran­si­tion of the remain­der of nurs­ing, physi­cian assis­tants, bio­med­ical main­te­nance, pre­ven­ta­tive med­i­cine, lab, X‑ray and oth­er train­ing pro­grams by 2013. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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