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174th Fighter Wing Medical Group Trains in Trauma Hospital

Technical Sgt.  Micahel J. Lowe, 174th FW Aerospace Medical Specialist assists with Surgery during the unit's ongoing deployment to Puerto Rico.

Technical Sgt. Micahel J. Lowe, 174th FW Aerospace Medical Specialist assists with Surgery during the unit's ongoing deployment to Puerto Rico.

Maj. Mary A. Pontecorvo, 174th FW Clinical Nurse & Capt. Michelle A. Dix 174th FW Physician Assistant assists with minor surgery during the unit's ongoing deployment to Puerto Rico.

Maj. Mary A. Pontecorvo, 174th FW Clinical Nurse & Capt. Michelle A. Dix 174th FW Physician Assistant assists with minor surgery during the unit's ongoing deployment to Puerto Rico.

5/4/2009 - San Juan, Puerto Rico -- The 174th Fighter Wing Medical group flew to Puerto Rico to recertify on medical skills training at a trauma hospital in the Puerto Rico Medical Center "Centro Medico" from May 3- 16.

The hospital is a very busy 24/7 trauma unit that has both CT scans and an MRI machine with over 100 beds and the opportunity to train here presents real world challenges for the 174th doctors, nurses and technicians.

There is a language barrier as residents of Puerto Rico speak both Spanish and English and the training provides a chance for the 174th medical team to learn not just medical skills but interpersonal skills in highly active trauma hospital. The medical staff learns not only how to communicate with the patients, but also the hospital staff that has varying levels of fluency in English.

The 174th has brought two unit members who speak Spanish fluently one is the commander on the trip, 174th Fighter Wing Flight Surgeon, Lt. Col. Guillermo Quetell and the other is a Medical Administration Specialist, Staff Sgt. Evette Turner. Even with unit members fluent in Spanish the transition still has a learning curve so each member has a card with common medical terms to help ease the transition.

Lt. Col. Valentine Barzac said of the experience "I know that if we went into a foreign country we could communicate no matter what".

The large public facility is located in San Juan the capital of Puerto Rico and has a comprehensive level of care in multi-hospital complex located on 22 acres.

The Centro Medico trauma hospital provides quality, quantity and efficiency at reasonable costs and offers many unique services such as trauma care, a hyperbolic chamber, an endovascular lab, and areomedical services. Members of the medical unit led by Lt. Col. Guillermo Quetell, rotated through each of the unique services learning the essential skills needed.

Quetell is a Syracuse plastic surgeon with a private practice and a flight surgeon at the 174th fighter wing that attended high school in Puerto Rico and was trained at Syracuse Medical School and is one of three flight surgeons at the 174th Fighter Wing.

For Quetell coming home as an Air National Guard officer and as a plastic surgeon provides a special opportunity for the medical team to learn first hand about the culture and to integrate into the hospital as a working team.

The emergency division of the hospital receives over 50,000 visits a year with 70% of those being trauma related. The unit members from the 174th rotated through the various units on both the day and night shift to receive maximum exposure to train.

Quetell said, "Studies show that efficiency is increased when volume is high in hospital". The trauma center in Puerto Rico is able to provide a fast paced training environment where the unit members will be able to bring the skills learned back to the 174th Fighter Wing.

The hyperbolic chamber in the hospital is one of only four large units in the United States and the Caribbean and treats a variety of problems such as burns, infections, and decompression problems. The chamber is capable of simulating depths of up to 165 feet and can treat multiple people at the same time.

Many members of the medical group are practicing nurses, technicians and doctors and the instruction is opportunity to gain skills that they may not normally be exposed to, but that the Air National Guard requires of medical personnel. Tech. Sgt. Jerry Douglas is an emergency room nurse in his civilian job however the multiple exposures to actual trauma situations in Puerto Rico provides an occasion to learn new skills and stay adept at others.

Douglas says, "The immersion in this training environment provides real world training and helps to break down any language barriers while providing quality care to the patient which is true whether you're deployed to a combat zone or a training mission".

Medical units have been receiving real world trauma training in Puerto Rico since 2005 and more than 20 medical units have rotated through the hospital. The 174th Fighter Wing Medical Group spent ten days rotating members through the units and members gained valuable knowledge from the busy trauma unit that they can take back to the wing.