NEWS | June 20, 2008

Wilford Hall team treats ENT patients in Honduras

By By Tech. Sgt. John Asselin Joint Task Force-Bravo public affairs

A 14-person medical team from Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, completed a two-week readiness training mission in Honduras June 19 after performing numerous ear, nose and throat procedures. 

The surgical team accomplished 240 patient evaluations and more than 40 surgeries, and the team of two audiologists performed more than 160 audiograms (hearing tests) and fitted more than 50 hearing aids at Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, said Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Mark Boston, an ENT surgeon and chief of the WHMC team. 

"We performed primarily ear surgeries, but did some nasal procedures and, for the first time here, some airway endoscopic surgery," he said. 

"We worked closely with the Honduran residents and staff here at the hospital helping show them the techniques we use back home," Dr. Boston said. "Our goal was to teach safe and effective nasal and ear surgery." 

In Honduras, the WHMC team also learned from the unique challenges they do not usually encounter back in Texas. 

"We saw the same conditions we see back home, and we used the same techniques and equipment we would use at home, but here the complexity and extent of the surgeries are far greater than in the United States," Dr. Boston said. "It became an excellent training opportunity for our people, plus it was great for us to work side-by-side with our Honduran counterparts." 

The audiology staff also encountered a more obvious change from home - communicating in a different language. 

"The language barrier is a challenge, but we've been able to get basic points across," said Air Force Capt. Malisha Martukovich, an audiologist from WHMC. "During hearing aid fittings we relied quite a bit on translators. In the long run, we've learned quite a bit of Spanish in just two weeks." 

This is the fourth year in a row a team from Wilford Hall has provided care at the hospital, Dr. Boston said. 

"We like to follow up with patients who received care from the team in the past," he said. "The successes rate on par with what we see back home." 

The visits have also evolved over the years. 

"It started as an ear mission and has grown over the years to include nose and airway," Dr. Boston added. "We're taking cues from the Hondurans as to what they need most. We hope to offer reconstructive airway surgeries on return visits."