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Medical expert enhances partnerships through global health engagements

  • Published
  • Air Mobility Command

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Before leading in a command position at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel Lamothe, was working side-by-side with the Philippine air force and helping combat malaria in the Honduras.

Lamothe’s career features numerous partnerships with other countries during global health engagements. He has also completed several humanitarian missions as an ophthalmologist in Central and South America where he has treated patients with little or no access to health care.

“These are patients who are often-times being led by other people because they’re literally blind,” said Lamothe, 22nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander.

“I especially enjoy seeing the patients' joy and surprise when they pull the dressing off of their face only to find out they can see again,” he said. “Even if it’s not perfect vision, they now don’t have to be a burden on their family and community. They can care for themselves again and provide basic daily living.”

His knowledge and expertise even led him to being selected as part of a four-member team of subject matter experts to participate in BALIKATAN 2017, May 8 to 19, in the Philippines. BALIKATAN 2017 is an annual U.S.-Philippine bilateral military exercise on a variety of missions, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training.

“The one thing I learned and really appreciated was that the Philippine air force utilizes their medical and rescue assets for civilian air transport and civilian rescues,” he said. “That’s something that we don’t do a lot in the U.S. Air Force, or at least as much as our Air National Guard counterparts. It was fascinating because their medics had a lot of actual experience in this and so it turned into a really nice subject matter exchange.”

During his time in the Philippines Lamothe stressed the importance of innovation on behalf of the surgeon generals from both Air Mobility Command and Air Force Special Operations Command.

Lamothe said they are always looking for better, newer and lighter types of equipment to accomplish the mission. Their Philippine counterparts don’t necessarily have access to the same resources, yet are just as adaptable.

“Their best practices are really interesting because they have to use what they’ve have,” he said. “Partnership training is nice for us because sometimes our technology fails. If all we know is our technology and we don’t know a back-up, we don’t have a fallback. It was really nice working with those guys and learning how they manage their patient issues in the air.”

Two months later Lamothe also participated in a six-week long training called the Military Tropical Medicine Course, managed by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. More than 150 students received training in identifying and treating infectious diseases around the world through four weeks of lectures and laboratories.

After the first four weeks, the students are split into groups and sent to host-nation countries. These included Ghana, Liberia, Costa Rica, Peru and Honduras. Lamothe was part of a small medical team sent to Northeast Honduras, also known as the ‘Mosquito Coast.’

The Ministry of Health is responsible for testing civilians for malaria in Honduras. They try to test 10 percent of the entire population, according to Lamothe.  

The students provided assistance and tested the water for malaria-carrying mosquito larvae. The experience granted them opportunities to work with the U.S. Navy’s medical services and Peruvian medical officials. They also spent time in the Honduran hospitals to see how the country manages infectious and tropical diseases.

Lamothe stressed the importance of being able to partake in the observations to gain future best practices.  

“There are things we don’t get a lot of training on in the United States and things that we don’t necessarily get to see that these folks do here,” he said. “The Military Tropical Medicine Course mission is to provide an opportunity for DoD personnel to learn about this and get some first-hand exposure.”

Lamothe credits all of these experiences and missions to being a part of the overarching team whose goal is global health engagement, sharing knowledge and getting subject matter experts together so that they can help one another.

“Both of these, in addition to the humanitarian piece, are all part of global health engagement, which is really a large driving force behind the military medical system,” said Lamothe.  “It’s [our job] to take our experience, our knowledge, our training and certifications, and not just go somewhere to hand out medicine or do surgeries but to develop those relationships and partnerships and that sense of a common shared strategic vision on how we see the world going. Not just your community or your little area of the world, but the entire world.”