Americans and Mongolians Work Together Providing Care
"I feel a lot of responsibility with this role," says a microbiology teacher from Health Sciences University of Mongolia hired as a translator."We are the bridge."
Some were recruited, some received orders and some applied. But the Mongolian contingent of Pacific Angel Mongolia has proven to be the important gear keeping the medical teams rolling.
Mongolian Armed Forces Junior Sergeant Batkhuyag Sayannymbuu, 21, was on a field training exercise in Thailand when he was told that he would be part of the Pacific Angel mission in the Eastern plains of his home country.
“I really wanted to see the countryside, but also I wanted to meet the U.S. soldiers,” he said.
Assigned to camp security and crowd control for the mobile team, his role as an intermediary between the clinic staff and the hundreds waiting for the team each morning is vital. But when he began to see things bottle necking at registration, Batkhuyag grabbed a pen and began helping staff to check patients in also. Project HOPE volunteer nurse Karen Kwok, who became the de facto flow regulator at the mobile team’s clinic sites, found him to be invaluable.
“There is no way we could have gotten through this many patients so seamlessly if it wasn’t for him,” said Kwok.
Pediatrician Otgonsuren G. has similarly found herself juggling multiple roles. Translating from English to Mongolian for both American Air Force doctor and a Sri Lankan Air Force doctor as they saw pediatric patients, Otgonsuren also pitched in with examinations.
“As a Mongolian pediatrician, I know the specific issues that the kids here might have. For example, since we have a temperate climate, we don’t have tropical diseases. So a diagnosis that might make sense in Hawaii, where some of these doctors practice, probably isn’t correct here,” said Otgonsuren. “If there is any sort of question, the three of us get together to discuss the problem.”
When she heard about Pacific Angel from a colleague, she jumped at the opportunity to once again be involved in screening children for chronic diseases, something she was spearheaded when there was national programming targeting the issue twenty years ago.
“This outreach was very needed in this population,” says Otgonsuren, pointing to two patients with physical exam findings that were likely to be ovarian and breast cancer, respectively, discovered by the OB/GYN teams– diagnosis that may not otherwise have been made without the examinations.
“I feel a lot of responsibility with this role,” says Ulziijaroal Gurjav, 27, a microbiology teacher at the Health Sciences University of Mongolia hired as a translator for the optometry team. “We are the bridge, and so the accuracy of communication is important. If you confuse the words “clear” with “blurry” when translating what a patient can see, the patient might not get the right glasses. It’s only two words but choosing the right one makes a huge impact.”
She jokes, “I’m almost a certified optometrist after working with these guys. I’m learning a lot. For example, I now know that the Mongolian people tend to have less myopia– nearsightedness– than hyperopia– farsightedness.”
Ulziijaroal, nicknamed “Uzi” by her teammates, is also excited to have more education to pass on to her students and that her English language skills have been given a major leg up.
Dr. Otgonsuren agrees, “Before I spoke just medical English and now I can have more of a real conversation.”
Junior Sergeant Batkhuyag has learned lessons of a different sort, through his hoped-for connection with U.S. military.
“American soldiers are fun,” laughs Batkhuyag. “They are always smiling. Our guys– sometimes when we are working we have a cold face.” He adds, “But after work we all have fun.”
“We are healing our guys and helping people. Its good thing. Its called cooperation.”