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Pediatricians care for young patients of Operation PACANGEL-Nepal

BHARATPUR, Nepal (AFNS) -- More than an hour's drive along uneven, dirt roads outside the nearest major city is the rural village of Manahari, Nepal, where the Shree Rastriya Rotary Secondary School can be found. Hundreds of Nepalese people line up outside the gate of the compound, now a temporary a site for health services outreach as part of Operation Pacific Angel-Nepal.

The military members, volunteers and local medical professionals walk onto the site and disperse among several classrooms-turned-clinics designated for specific medical practices. Much like the others, one particular room is lit only by the sun coming through the barred windows, benches are pushed together to serve as exam tables, and a whiteboard displays the names of the doctors for this area. They are the pediatricians for PACANGEL-Nepal.

During the first day of PACANGEL-Nepal, Capt. (Dr.) Enrilyn Thronson, said the pediatrics team saw approximately 50 patients. But she also expects the numbers to grow throughout the operation, which runs Sept. 8-13, as more people hear about it.

"Proper medical care is important, but some of the patients are telling me they came here because it's the only place they could get to by walking and they don't really have any other options," Thronson said.

The team is mainly diagnosing and treating recurring concerns among this demographic such as chronic malnutrition and stomach issues as well as acute illnesses. Another main focus of the doctors is educating the patients' parents on vaccines, nutrition and safety while caring for the children.

"Being able to diagnose problems at a young age will affect their future and provide optimal health," she said. "We're trying to do what would be healthiest for them given the circumstances."

One of the challenges the team is facing is the minimal amount of resources. Thronson said a typical stateside clinic or hospital would provide them with more than 100 drugs to choose from to treat patients, but here that supply is much more limited to a variety of only 10-15 different medicines.

Regardless of the challenges, the diverse pediatrics team is working to overcome them together. The team is comprised of one U.S. Air Force pediatrician, three Project Hope pediatricians, one Nepalese pediatrician, and four Nepalese general medicine interns. Project Hope is a voluntary, non-governmental organization comprised of American doctors.

"This is my first real immersion with the military and watching them turn a school into a working clinic overnight is amazing," said Dr. Seema Jilani, Project Hope pediatrician. "The work ethic of everyone is extraordinary and all of us coming together for a common mission is nice to see and great to be a part of."

PACANGEL, which is in its seventh year, supports U.S. Pacific Command's capacity-building efforts by partnering with other governments, non-governmental agencies and multilateral militaries in the respective region to provide medical, dental, optometry and engineering assistance to their citizens. PACANGEL has already taken place in Bangladesh, Tonga and Mongolia this year with the last iteration of 2014 currently being held in Nepal.