Cmdr. Steven Romero, a cardiologist at Naval Medical Center San Diego, speaks about heart disease in Phnom Pehn as part of Pacific Partnership. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Karolina A. Oseguera)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - U.S. Navy physicians participating in this year's Pacific Partnership led a rheumatic heart disease awareness symposium in Phnom Penh, June 20.

"Today we are conducting a rheumatic heart disease symposium to try and increase awareness about the disease and try to encourage the creation of a prevention program in Cambodia," said Cmdr. Steven Romero, a cardiologist at Naval Medical Center San Diego.

The symposium focused on education about the disease itself, particularly how it develops, and treatment options that include medicines and surgical procedures. In his presentation, Romero encouraged the attendees to set up a nationwide rheumatic heart disease control program.

"There are a lot of heart disease patients who can't afford treatment so they are dying of heart failure in the early ages between 20 and 30," said Romero. "My goal is to get the stake holders together and start the process of a prevention and control program."

Those in attendance at the symposium included members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, multiple Cambodian and international non-governmental organizations, and host nation hospital staff.

"This is probably the coolest thing I have ever been a part of," said Romero. "I come and volunteer here often and I always wonder why there are so many cases of rheumatic heart disease. Seeing the groups come together and being able to increase awareness of this problem makes me excited."

Pacific Partnership is in its ninth iteration and is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Asia-Pacific region.