USAFE-AFAFRICA, NATO host 29th Aerospace Medicine Summit

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James M. Hodgman
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa
Medical professionals from 16 nations attended the Ramstein Aerospace Medicine Summit and NATO Science and Technology Organization Technical Course here March 10-14.

Lt. Gen. Tom Jones, the vice commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, welcomed the more than 170 attendees who filled the Hercules Theater here for the week-long summit.

"It's a pleasure to see 16 different nations represented at this summit," Jones said. "Events like this remind us of what a great profession we have, how incredibly complex it can be and how important it is to share information amongst ourselves and our fellow aviators and physicians."

Jones said that aerospace medicine is a very specialized, complex skill set and without continued academic study, complacency can set in.

The theme for the summit was "The Future of Aerospace Medicine - Meeting the Challenge." The event featured presentations by a variety of medical experts from numerous organizations including USAFE-AFAFRICA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NATO nations.

The annual event is a joint effort between the USAFE-AFAFRICA command surgeon's office and NATO to share information in the aerospace medical world and build relationships with international partners.

Summit attendees from North America, Europe and Asia heard 50 presentations covering the latest developments in the aerospace medical community, including restoring memory and forward aeromedical evacuation.

The Air Force surgeon general issued a challenge to his audience.

"I challenge all of you to evolve," said Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Travis. "War has evolved, and technology and threats have evolved. It is not just about cockpits, pilots and physiology anymore. We as aerospace medicine practitioners must change how we support a broader definition of operators, as humans continue to be crucial to military capability in concert with technology advances."

Travis shared how the Air Force is evolving by incorporating new initiatives in all areas of operational support, prevention and health care.

"What we're trying to do in the U.S. Air Force is turn more of our teams into human performance practitioners," he said. "It's not just medical care; our focus must be on health and wellness." 

Travis said the Air Force has started to provide medical care teams on-site with highly-stressed specialties such as explosive ordnance disposal and special operations. He said medical professionals go through training with those Airmen, see them on the job every day and are able to provide immediate care and counsel when needed.

"Our Airmen experience a broad spectrum of stresses including physical and physiological stress, as well as mental stress," Travis said. "We have to make sure we're supporting those professionals, we owe it to them to provide the right support, and if need be, provide that support on-site."

Maj. Leonard I. Lupu, a Romanian air force flight surgeon, said the summit offered medical professionals an excellent opportunity to connect and learn from one another.

"The summit is a unique opportunity because we usually meet each other in the theater of operations," he said. "It's very important to know each other, to share experiences and to contribute to projects together. Doing this will provide us better training and increase our interoperability."

Lupu said he's looking forward to sharing what he has learned at this year's summit with his colleagues, especially how to diagnose and treat coronary artery disease, or CAD, one of the many topics addressed during the summit.

In Romania, CAD is a big issue, he said. "We're trying to figure out how to manage the problem."

During the summit, Lupu said he learned about the CAD risk factor calculator and how to use it to diagnose the disease early.

"It will be a challenge for us to apply the risk calculator for our people, but identifying screening methods, developing therapeutic approaches and implementing a good prevention strategy will be a good way ahead," he said.

Lupu also stressed how important it is for events like the summit to continue.

"We fight together as a NATO alliance and it's very important to train as we fight," he said.

Lupu has attended the summit five times in its 29-year history and said that lessons learned during the conference lead to mission enhancement. He shared a recent display of this capability during a mission in Ukraine.

"Our air force developed a system for strategic aeromedical evacuation using C-27J (Spartan) fixed-wing aircraft," he said. "Our last mission was in Kiev, Ukraine, in March. We performed an air medevac mission by moving 11 injured Ukrainian citizens to Bucharest so they could receive medical care."

Lupu said he's proud that his country has such a strong aeromedical evacuation capability and that he's thankful for the partnership Romania shares with USAFE-AFAFRICA and NATO.