HomeNewsArticle Display

Female physician builds partnerships through Global Health Engagements

Lt. Col. Elizabeth Erickson (first row, second from right), a U.S. Air Force physician, poses for a photo with Afghan women healthcare providers and Staff Sgt. Sarah Saelens when she worked on the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team. The PRT worked closely with local healthcare providers to improve the health and wellbeing of Afghan women. (Courtesy photo)

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Elizabeth Erickson (first row, second from right) poses for a photo with Afghan women healthcare providers and Staff Sgt. Sarah Saelens when she worked on the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team. The PRT worked closely with local healthcare providers to improve the health and well-being of Afghan women. (Courtesy photo)

Lt. Col. Elizabeth Erickson, a U.S. Air Force physician, speaks at the International Committee of Military Medicine along with Dr. J. Christopher Daniel and Dr. David Smith from the U.S. delegation in New Delhi, India, November 2017. Erickson spoke on research she had done relating to military medicine, and was the only female among the 9-person U.S. delegation. (Courtesy photo)

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Elizabeth Erickson speaks at the International Committee of Military Medicine along with Dr. J. Christopher Daniel and Dr. David Smith from the U.S. delegation in New Delhi, India, in November 2017. Erickson spoke on research she had done relating to military medicine, and was the only female among the 9-person U.S. delegation. (Courtesy photo)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AFNS) -- A career in the Air Force is often a truly global experience. For Lt. Col. Elizabeth Erickson, her experiences in military health outreach around the world allows her to build strong partnerships. Her position as a female officer and physician has given her the unique opportunity to work with and learn from inspiring women around the globe.

The Air Force Medical Service participates in international medical outreach efforts, called Global Health Engagements, to strengthen relationships with partner nations that bear fruit diplomatically and medically. GHEs include a broad range of international medical activities undertaken by the U.S. military. These activities help to build strong relationships with allies and partners, increase military medical interoperability between nations, and build global capacity to address health security threats.

“For example, we work with some partner nations on bio-surveillance in order to better detect and respond to outbreaks, so they do not become larger health security crises,” said Erickson.

Erickson, a family physician and currently a preventive medicine resident at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Maryland, always had an interest in working and studying abroad. Before joining the Air Force, she studied and volunteered in India and Africa. In the Air Force, after assignments in Turkey and Germany, and a deployment to Afghanistan, she was an international health specialist at Pacific Air Force and U.S. Pacific Command.

“I was always interested in having a global perspective on care, so I gravitated towards these unique opportunities,” said Erickson. “As an international health specialist, I planned and executed GHEs, coordinated Department of Defense health activities across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and developed strategies to use health engagements to achieve national security objectives.”

Erickson’s GHE experiences allow her to apply and expand intercultural, medical and military skills. As a female officer, she had opportunities to support the health and empowerment of women in multiple countries, specifically in Afghanistan.

From July 2009 to March 2010, Erickson served as senior medical officer and director of Women’s Affairs on the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan. She and her team executed programs that supported the local government and improved the health and well-being of the local population, especially women and children. The team engaged with the local Ministry for Women’s Affairs representatives, female healthcare providers at local hospitals and the province’s only girl’s school.

“It was a priority for our commander to find sustainable ways to improve the lives of Afghan women,” said Erickson. “One project provided women with solar stoves. We found that women were inhaling harmful smoke while cooking with charcoal and wood, and we wanted to provide an alternative cooking method that would ultimately improve their health.”

The three medical Air Force women on the PRT met regularly with local female healthcare providers.

“We developed strong relationships with them and learned about their challenges,” said Erickson. “We conducted training on basic life support in obstetrics to help them recognize potentially life-threatening events that happen during childbirth and prepared them to manage those events.”

While in Afghanistan, Erickson participated in an International Women’s Day event. Local women - including the female nurses and physicians she had worked with so closely - gave speeches, performed music and recited poetry.

“It was special to see our friends, these women we became so close with, share their hopes for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” said Erickson.

Erickson’s experiences serve as an important reminder that female military leaders and medical personnel are vital for full-spectrum global health engagement, and she encourages other female medical Airmen to pursue opportunities in GHE.

“There are some really inspiring women in our partner nations, and it was a rewarding experience to meet and work with them,” said Erickson. “Many times, my female counterparts and I built a special bond, and we worked together to move health cooperation between our militaries forward. We should encourage more women to become leaders on both sides of the GHE community to improve our engagements with our partner nations and the global military medical community.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @AETCommand: 😉 It's not really bragging if you bring home the 🏆 - is it? 📖 more at the link about how @Columbus_AFB's First Assignment…
RT @USAFHealth: Air Force Research Laboratory tests the new wireless high-noise filtering stethoscope. Learn more: https://t.co/bNj9LhB7d6…
RT @37thTRW: A #CV22 from @KIRTLAND377ABW arrived today to give hands on training to our #Airmen in this tiltrotor #aircraft ✈️ 🚁 🇺🇸 Our…
RT @HiAirGuard: We’ve had a lot of excitement on our flight line for exercise Sentry Aloha 19-2! The exercise kicked off with fighter aircr…
RT @419fw: The 419th OSF is home to about 40 Airmen who work behind the scenes of every #F35 flying mission @HAFB. Comprised of aircrew fli…
RT @AF_SBIR_STTR: In 2018, @AFWERX in collaboration with other Air Force organizations like the @AFResearchLab revamped the congressionally…
.@ActingSecAF happy birthday! Thanks for embodying the Air Force core values. INTEGRITY FIRST. SERVICE BEFORE SE… https://t.co/VFeGcblVVK
RT @USAFCENT: Watch our #F15C's "get hyped" during Exercise #HypeEagle! Stay tuned for more! @usairforce @CENTCOM @DeptofDefense @AirMobi
RT @AirmanMagazine: Your @usairforce news: ✓ Staff sergeant promotion results are released ✓ The 419th Civil Engineering Squadron helps r…
RT @419fw: Capt. Sterling Broadhead, 67th Aerial Port Squadron, and his team took gold at the Law of Armed Conflict event at the Inter-alli…
.@AstroHague thank you for keeping our partnerships strong into #space and far beyond. https://t.co/V0enWGSmSz
RT @ClarkCountyNV: Great video of the Las #Vegas @NellisAFB based #Thunderbirds teaming up with their military counterparts. This is the fi…
RT @AFResearchLab: Dr. Rachel Abrahams developed a steel alloy that's 20% stronger than conventional AM alloys in terms of ultimate tensile…
RT @48FighterWing: Happy #F15Friday from the #LibertyWing! This epic display of #CombatAirPower is brought to you by Carl Edwards! #WeAreL
RT @CAF_Australia: The bonds forged through war endure during peace. It was an honour this week to join CSAF @usairforce at the @AWMemorial
RT @HQUSAFEPA: Building partnerships through programs like the African Partnership Flights allows the exchange of best practices and increa…
RT @kdfinfo: Day Two Activities at the African Partnership Flight Program at the Laikipia Air Base. #AFAFRICA #USAF https://t.co/RTUJ0M7tVW
RT @CAF_Australia: There is no more enduring friendship than that between @AusAirForce and @usairforce. Today in Canberra I hosted CSAF #US
RT @AFCLC: AFCLC was honored to host the Command Chiefs from around Indo PACOM this week and discuss how #language and #culture assets from…