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Surgical urology focus of latest medical readiness exercise

By Tech Sgt. William Farrow | Joint Task Force-Bravo public affairs | April 14, 2008

SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras — For 11 consecutive years, U.S. military urology surgeons have packed their bags and travelled to Honduras to help alleviate medical problems experienced by men and women, young and old.

Working out of Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, March 28-April 13 the 11-person team made up of personnel from Brooke and Madigan Army Medical Centers and has operated on more than 35 patients this year, treating problems ranging from obstructions to malignancies and problems associated with inflammatory diseases.

"This has been a great eye-opening experience for me," said Dr. (Lt. Col.) Charles Henderson, a pediatric urological surgeon from Madigan Army Medical Center, Ft. Lewis, Wash., who is in Honduras for his second medical readiness training exercise.

"We get to see the disease process advancing more here than the U.S. because often in the U.S., the problems are caught early and the problems see a quick medical response," he said.

Treating the cases here allows Dr. Henderson to become more familiar with certain cases he wouldn't normally see while practicing medicine in the U.S.

"I might see one or two similar cases every two or three years, but by participating in this MEDRETE, I'm seeing extreme cases almost daily, which really helps with my understanding of how to treat some of these illnesses," he said.

Dr. Henderson said since he's participated in this MEDRETE, he's treated children with a variety of common and complex urological problems relating to bladder, kidney and testes problems.

Adult patients have been treated for a variety of ailments including urinary tract problems, kidney stones, and prostate and penile cancer.

Dr. Henderson said although Hospital Escuela's urology department does not have the newest resources and equipment available to them, the urology staff is highly qualified and they take great pride in the care they can provide and the follow-up care of patients very thorough.

"This is my second MEDRETE here and I've seen patients we worked on last year and it's evident the Honduran doctors really paid close attention to their aftercare," he said.

The MEDRETE is a way of continuous medical education in certain specialties such as pediatric urology, said Dr. Omar Velasquez, a Hospital Escuela urologist working along side the MEDRETE team.

"We are seeing a lot of procedures which we don't normally specialize in, but we work with our guests and we learn the techniques. We gain experience of new techniques and we can then apply our new knowledge to treat the afflicted," he said.