23 nations attend aerospace medicine summit

by Senior Airman Jonathan Stefanko 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Medical professionals from 23 nations attended the Aerospace Medicine Summit and NATO Science and Technology Organization Technical Course March 14 to 18 on Ramstein.

The annual event is a joint effort between the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Command Surgeon’s office and NATO to share information in the aerospace medical world and build relationships with international partners.

The theme for the summit was “Aerospace Medicine From the Ground Up.” The weeklong event featured presentations by a variety of medical experts from numerous organizations, including USAFE-AFAFRICA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NATO nations.

“Because the presenters are multinational, we get to hear what each country is doing that may be different than what someone else may be doing,” said Col. Timothy Robinette, USAFE-AFAFRICA command surgeon. “The main part of the conference is to improve interoperability so when we deploy together we know how everyone works.”

The two objectives of the conference were to share knowledge and network. However, the overall idea for the conference was the well-being of Airmen.

More than 200 summit attendees from North America, Europe and Asia discussed approximately 40 presentations covering the latest developments in the aerospace medical community with hopes to improve safety. Topics included transferring aviation principles into clinical practice, advanced aerospace medicine training, and neck and back pain among pilots.

“Though we are from different nations, we are all aiming to do the same thing: ensure the well-being of our patients,” said Capt. David Bruce, Royal Air Force regional occupational medicine consultant. “If you are looking at someone with an illness or condition, you want to protect their health and make sure they can do the job safely and effectively.”

Along with taking part in numerous discussions, attendees also had the opportunity to view a C-17 Globemaster III static display showcasing its transport isolation system.

“It took a very short time for the isolation system to be (operational), which was great to have for the Ebola event that occurred,” Robinette said. “This capability is incredible due to being able to transport patients from one continent to another without putting countries or the patient at risk.”

The transport isolation system is an innovative capability that allows the Department of Defense to provide aeromedical evacuation for patients with known or suspected exposure to a contagious and infectious disease, including the Ebola virus and severe acute respiratory syndrome, and to protect the airframe, aircrew and support personnel, as well as provide worldwide patient transport capability in case of a biological event.

As this year’s summit came to a close, Bruce looked to his new friends and explains why he has been attending for eight consecutive years.

“During the 35 years, I have been a part of the Royal Air Force; I have seen places I could only dream of and met people from across the world,” Bruce said. “Summits like this brings everyone together to discuss what matters most to us: our patients. The flight surgeon community is small, and by working together, we learn what works best and help develop policies and share best practices so we can work together more fluidly.”

Bruce and Robinette continued to express how great it is to be in an environment where everyone is passionate about saving lives and there are many opportunities to learn from so many nations. And while this is the end of the summit, they look forward to seeing their new friends again next year.