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RIMPAC 2024 Medical Symposium Focuses on "Tyranny of Distance: Closing the Gap"

05 July 2024

From Chief Mass Communication Specialist John Grandin, BUMED Public Affairs and Outreach

International military medical teams from around the globe convened at Sharkey Theater on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for the 2024 Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Medical Symposium, July 1-2, 2024.

Themed "Tyranny of Distance: Closing the Gap," the symposium delved into fostering global cooperation amongst military medical professionals to tackle operational medical challenges in the maritime domain. Topics included burn care limitations in distributed maritime operations, oral maxillofacial restoration from blast injuries, strategies to enhance prolonged casualty care, insights from a high-ranking panel on overcoming distance-related obstacles, and a historical analysis of environmental health and preventive medicine’s impact to force sustainment and force regeneration within the Indo-Pacific theater. The event also served as an opportunity to showcase international platforms, such as Japan’s amphibious aircraft, the US-2, and its ability to “close the gap” in patient evacuation.  

Planning the event was a combined Canada – U.S. endeavor. Lt. Cmdr. Jessica Atterbury, deputy surgeon, U.S. 3rd Fleet, was the U.S. Navy lead for planning the event. “Our combined goal in this event was to host a medical symposium in which all nations, ranks, and specialties could come together, converse, and learn from one another no matter their experience. Inclusivity was at our core.” 

This year, RIMPAC 2024 introduced poster presentations, showcasing diverse topics contributed by services and countries participating in the exercise. Maj. Brad Olmstead, Canada’s lead planner for the symposium, pioneered these efforts. His goal was to increase the opportunity for international participants to share their ideas and enhancements in medical practice. Ultimately, the use of this platform to enhance communication among military medical professionals was a resounding success.     

RIMPAC 2024's theme, “Partners: Integrated and Prepared,” underscores the collective commitment of participating nations to readiness. 

“There are many ways we are getting after a more distributed, naval force,” remarked Capt. Kim Davis, Pacific Fleet Surgeon. In response to the evolution of health services in a distributed environment, Capt. Davis stated the importance of “joint collaboration, partner nation learning, and achieving full integration so that across all of our milestones we can be our best selves not only in the Pacific, but around the globe.”  

Key figures at the symposium included Chilean Navy Commodore Alberto Guerrero, deputy commander of the RIMPAC Combined Task Force (CTF), and Capt. Kim Davis, with Capt. Timothy Wilks, U.S. 3rd Fleet Surgeon, facilitating the panel discussions. Commenting on the importance of collaboration with Allies and Partners in overcoming medical inefficiencies in such a vast environment, Guerrero stated “these types of symposiums give us the right answer for the future.”   

Twenty-nine nations, 40 surface ships, three submarines, 14 national land forces, more than 150 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC in and around the Hawaiian Islands, June 27 to Aug. 1. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2024 is the 29th exercise in the series that began in 1971.

Navy Medicine – represented by more than 44,000 highly-trained military and civilian health care professionals – provides enduring expeditionary medical support to the warfighter on, below, and above the sea, and ashore.
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