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Mentorship program refines medical techniques, fosters Misawa community relationships

U.S. Air Force Airmen study an appendix at Misawa Air Base, Japan, March, 13, 2017. The procedure required the removal of an appendix to prevent it from rupturing. During the operation, the primary surgeon worked as the mentor to advise how to make the process better. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert)

Airmen study an appendix at Misawa Air Base, Japan, March, 13, 2017. A surgeon in the Small Hospital Clinic Skills Enhancement program worked as a mentor to demonstrate removal of the appendix and advise how to make the process better. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Shawnn Nichols, left, a 959th Medical Group general surgeon, surgeon oncologist and program mentor, oversees a surgery as Capt. Lee Hafen, a 35th Medical Group general surgeon, exposes an appendix at Misawa Air Base, Japan, March 13, 2017. Misawa was chosen as the first base to test the Small Hospital Clinic Skills Enhancement program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert)

Lt. Col. Shawnn Nichols, a 959th Medical Group general surgeon, surgeon oncologist and program mentor, oversees a surgery as Capt. Lee Hafen, a 35th Medical Group general surgeon, exposes an appendix at Misawa Air Base, Japan, March 13, 2017. Misawa was chosen as the first base to test the Small Hospital Clinic Skills Enhancement program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- The Indo-Asia-Pacific region is infamous for earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis; military medical facilities and personnel must stay ready for anything.

To guarantee medical personnel are prepared, senior leaders from around the Air Force were sponsored by the Air Force Medical Operations Agency, Air Force Surgeon General, to initiate the Small Hospital Clinic Skills Enhancement program at bases with constantly rotating personnel.

“The reason why we have [(the 35th Medical Group)] here is for situations where a multitude of injuries need treatment,” said Lt. Col. Shawnn Nichols, a 959th Medical Group general surgeon, surgeon oncologist and program mentor. “More than likely, personnel are not going to be exposed to major incidents in the short amount of time they are here, but we have to be prepared for those types of operations, so this program supplements that.”

According to Nichols, mentors heighten clinical experience for staff while simultaneously enhancing patient care.

Misawa was chosen as the test pilot base where Nichols, Lt. Col. Anne Gray, a 673rd Medical Group obstetrician and gynecologist and Maj. Adeleke Oyemade, a 60th Medical Group certified registered nurse anesthetist, were amongst the inaugural team dispatched for the SHCSE program.

“There are new evidences showing different processes are better to apply into our cases,” Oyemade said. “So far the personnel have been very receptive, and it’s nice to see many staff members here are well-rounded.”

Mentors also worked with 35th Medical Group staff to better clinic unity, sharpen electronic medical records program usage and ensure Airmen have an advisor they can reach out to if they ever come across a unique medical case.

“We all need mentors to help each other move forward in our careers,” Nichols said. “I can give those under me guidance on how to advance their medical career while in the Air Force as well as when they get out.”

Mentors use a computer system setup in which surgeons show a medical case on the computer and can analyze it, check a pathology report or look at their clinical notes to provide direction.

While building their own connections within the 35th MDG, the team is also working towards fostering relations between facilities in the local area.

“We aim to expand the Japanese medical relations here as well,” Nichols said. “That way if we have to take patients to off-base medical facilities, we already have a good rapport and connection there to make the process smoother.”

Although the program is still in its initial stages, the AFSG is already planning for its extension based on feedback from mentors and the 35th MDG.

“The intent is for it to be continued,” Nichols said. “I’m sure this is going to be a fluid program to where AFMOA is going to build on it and make it even more successful.”

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