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Interpreters key to Air Force efforts in Indonesia

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Veronica Pierce
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force humanitarian assistance rapid response team deployed here in response to the recent earthquakes in Indonesia has treated more than 600 patients since opening the mobile field hospital to local residents Oct. 7 here, and one hurdle to overcome was the language barrier.

The HARRT mission here is to assist the remaining hospitals damaged by the earthquake by providing medical care to residents of Padang and the surrounding area, and the majority of patients seen by the Airmen speak little-to-no English. 

To combat this issue, local interpreters help the medical staff communicate with patients. The U.S. Embassy here provided interpreters to assist, as did Djamil Hospital officials who sought out volunteer medical students.

Maj. Shannon Faber is an emergency medical doctor from the 3rd Medical Operations Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. She is one of the nine doctors deployed here with the HARRT who has worked closely with interpreters.

"I am very impressed with the medical students' English skills," Major Faber said. "Their ability to speak English and understand medical terminology has helped tremendously in ensuring we provide the most accurate care to the patients."

Having local medical students has not only played a key role for HARRT medical personnel, but also the exchange has become beneficial to the students.

"Working with HARRT has given me the opportunity to practice my English and gain more medical knowledge from U.S. doctors," said Muhammad Dio Syabutra, a Undalas University medical student. "I find that experience could help me understand medicine from a different perspective and possibly benefit me with my medical studies."

A young mother, who identified herself as Ratujamasty, brought her two small children to the HARRT medical facility.

"I am so grateful for the American doctors," said the mother, through one of the volunteer interpreters. "My daughter has been ill for several days and I now feel relieved that the doctors have seen her."