Mongolians of all ages, even entire families, lined up outside an elementary school here waiting for medical and dental attention from a multinational staff of medical personnel during the Medical and Dental Civic Action Program of Exercise Khaan Quest 2011 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Aug. 7.
The elementary school served as a large-scale urgent care clinic for residents of the 9th khoroo, Khaan-Uul District and offered pediatrics, family practice, dental, orthopedic, and minor surgical care by service members from Mongolia, the Republic of Korea, India, U.S. and Canada.
Many medical team members, including Republic of Korea medical planning logistics officer, Lt. Col. Yoon Moonsoo, said they were impressed with what the Mongolians had established and hoped they could contribute to their mission and to the citizens.
The overall mission of the Medical and Dental Civic Action Program is to improve the overall health of area residents and enhance the capabilities of medical personnel, said Cmdr. Steve Kriss, a family physician and sports medicine specialist with 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Okinawa, Japan.
“I’m very impressed with the Mongolian armed forces, especially the medical personnel,” said Lt. Col. Gyan Prakash, a medical team member from the Indian army. “I’ve been concentrating on patient care along with all of my colleagues.”
The majority of the residents at the clinic sought dental care, making the dental clinic one of the busiest offices that day. They were able to treat up to five patients at one time using a classroom, an abundance of dental supplies and portable exam chairs.
“These people have a need, and being dentists, it’s nice that were able to relieve most of the patients’ pain,” said Lt. Col. Jim Arneson, a dentist with the Alaska Army National Guard.
One of Arneson’s patients was an elderly woman who had a few bothersome teeth that needed to be pulled. After Arneson finished, the woman grabbed him by the hand, looked him in the eye and thanked him for his work.
“It’s very satisfying to meet people from the local community,” Arneson said. “People genuinely appreciate the help we give them here.”
Navy hospital corpsmen also played a role by organizing tools onto exam trays, sanitizing used tools and keeping count of how many patients came through the clinic.
“Even though I’m in here working hard all day, I still find the work here very gratifying,” said Seaman Gerry Grossman, hospital corpsman, 3rd Dental Battalion, 3rd MLG, III MEF. “I give out toys to little kids after their appointments, and they’re always happy about it.”
Volunteers from Ulaanbaatar also took part in the clinic’s mission by translating and escorting patients.
“The doctors are very skilled and are taking care of each patient individually,” said Bilguun Batjargal, a local volunteer, resident and law student in Ulaanbaatar. “There’s a language barrier, but all are cooperating very well and communicating with body language. The soldiers are doing a great job.”
According to Kriss, each different type of physician or dentist helps between 30 and 50 patients every day.
Unfortunately, the clinic will only be able to help people as long as the medical and dental assistance program is going on, Kriss said. That’s why his unit and other III MEF assets are training local and Mongolian armed forces medical personnel to treat trauma, combat injuries and apply preventive medicine.
With this training, the hope is that the medical and dental care available in the district will have long-term and permanent impact.