Medical personnel lead disaster management conference
NISHIHARA, OKINAWA, Japan — More than 100 people attended a disaster preparedness, management and response conference May 17 at the University
of the Ryukyus Hospital’s Okinawa Clinical Simulation Center in Nishihara.
Navy Capt. John P. LaBanc, the III Marine Expeditionary Force surgeon, and Dr. Ichiro Kukita, the university director of the emergency medicine department, invited medical professionals, students and professors from Japan and U.S. service members and Department of Defense employees to the conference to develop disaster relief response plans.
“In the Asia-Pacific region, and especially Japan, we realize that disasters are imminent, and we need to work together,” said LaBanc. “After last year’s
conference, we wanted to get the word out about the importance of it and about building relationships with the medical community now before disaster
strikes. This is our opportunity to work with the medical community throughout Japan.”
People attending the one-day conference heard presentations from both American and Japanese medical professionals who covered an overview of disaster management, bilateral response operations, planning, incident command systems, injuries and coping with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The conference brought together individuals involved in disaster response situations, according to Robert D. Eldridge, the deputy assistant chief of staff for G-7, government and external affairs, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.
“We had medical first-responders, military service members, doctors, professors and firefighters from all across Japan come to the conference,” said Eldridge.
“With everyone having different procedures, we can learn from each other to find the best practice. Several people at the conference were involved directly with
the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami relief efforts. This brought a lot of experience to the conference and helped a great deal in planning
future relief efforts.”
The number of people who showed up highlighted the importance of planning for future disasters, according to Lt. Col. Hiroya Goto, an ophthalmology instructor at the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Medical School.
“I was happy about the turnout,” said Goto. “I believe that, on top of the importance of planning for these efforts, more importantly is the face-to-face contact you have with your peers. It made such a difference during Operation Tomodachi to have worked beside Americans in the past. By meeting each other and then
working together to help each other, you build relationships that last a lifetime.”
The conference also established a relationship between the staff at the simulation center and the medical community to coordinate future joint medical
exercises, according to LaBanc.
“The simulation center here is one of the most advanced in all of Asia,” said LaBanc. “Our goal is to come up with a course that can integrate Japanese and American service members, as well as medical personnel from the center, into a combined training scenario. With all of those entities coming together, plus the benefits of the centers capabilities, you have a remarkable opportunity.”
With the understanding that a disaster could be forthcoming, conferences like these are steps in the right direction in getting everyone prepared, according to Eldridge.
“It has been said the best way to save lives is to do it ahead of time,” said Eldridge. “These conferences show we all understand that and are doing everything we can to work together in preparation for whatever happens.”