Back to Top Skip to main content

Navy audiologist contributes to Pacific Partnership

Navy Lt. Matt Thomas, an audiologist supporting Pacific Partnership 2018, examines a patient's ear during a community health fair at Yap Memorial Hospital in Micronesia. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Byron Linder) Navy Lt. Matt Thomas, an audiologist supporting Pacific Partnership 2018, examines a patient's ear during a community health fair at Yap Memorial Hospital in Micronesia. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Byron Linder)

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

YAP, Micronesia — Pacific Partnership 2018 marks the 13th iteration of the Navy's humanitarian and civic assistance mission. It brings together a vast array of military personnel from countries including the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia and Japan. In each demographic, you’ll find personnel who are on their first, second, or even third trip to Micronesia.

But only one participant this year can claim to have the most firsthand experience with the Micronesian islands. He is Navy Lt. Matt Thomas, an audiologist stationed at Navy Environmental Preventative Medicine Unit 6 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with 18 years of service on active duty and in the Navy Reserve.

Seeking a Change

Before joining the Navy, Thomas found himself working for a baseball team and being less than impressed with the “grunt work” the job entailed.

“During my breaks, I would read, mostly history. I was a history major, and I wanted to work overseas when I got out of college, but I was not doing that. So I put it all together and figured the Navy would be the way to make that happen,” Thomas explained.

Thomas pursued a career as a surface warfare officer, but it was during a deployment to Djibouti in 2010 that he began not just a transition from the reserve to active duty, but also to a whole new field.

“The medical field was my avenue to go from the reserves to active duty, and audiology offered me the chance to take the prerequisite courses while I was deployed. I took eight classes that one summer in Djibouti, applied to every school that I could, and got accepted,” Thomas recalled, adding he continued to serve in the Navy Reserve while balancing a full-time class schedule.

Navy Environmental Preventative Medicine Unit 6, Thomas’ command, has a significant operational presence in the Oceana area. But, he said, it was force of will that got him to Micronesia.

“I had to piggyback myself to missions that were coming out here. I’d done my research and seen [Micronesia] had, at one time, taken U.S. dollars to start a newborn hearing screening program for audiology, so that was the foot in the door when we had a couple of projects in Chuuk,” he explained. “Two months later, I was in Yap with an entomologist. While he did his work, I did audiology and reviewed their programs. Since then, there’s certain funding that comes up for public health works, and myself and a couple of other team members are the caretakers for that. We go to different states in Micronesia and determine what their needs are, and I’m also doing audiology, so I’m dual-hatted in that sense -- working as a provider but also as an advance planner for public health works there.”

Helping Where Needed

While medical professionals in Micronesia can perform hearing screenings, Thomas explained that in the event of a patient failing the screenings, solutions local to the islands are nonexistent.

“There is no audiologist in [Micronesia], period … if the kids don’t pass, they don’t have the capabilities to do a follow-up diagnostic test to determine if there’s any damage, or determine the extent. It’s nice to come in and reassure parents that the kids are fine medically, or if there’s permanent hearing loss, educate them on what next steps to take. It helps to educate the teachers as well -- students who may have not appeared to be paying attention actually can’t hear,” he said.

The effort to bring screenings to more people appears to be paying off, Thomas said, allowing him to focus on the patients who need him most. “My first day in Chuuk, I saw 40 people, and averaged 35 per day while I was there,” he said. “Now I’ll average 12-20 people, and the last time I was in Pohnpei, I saw six a day -- cases that were earmarked for me to see -- cases with failed hearing screenings or speech difficulty.”

In addition to the lack of a resident expert, Thomas identified two environmental factors for hearing loss in Micronesia.

“I see a lot of the hearing loss is due to ear infections,” he said. “Kids in general are susceptible to ear infections, but when you add in a warm tropical climate and, in Chuuk especially, the kids are always in the water -- it’s a picnic for bacteria. Some treatment, if it’s done, it’s not followed through, or they just don’t stay out of the water. So you see what could be a temporary hearing loss develop into permanent hearing loss, and unfortunately I’ve seen that happen a number of times here.”

Thomas noted that while children can usually be treated, the sands of time are to blame for adult hearing loss.

“The kids I have seen here, I can get them to pass the hearing screening, but a lot of the adults have permanent hearing loss through age. They’re not exposed to a lot of the loud noises we have in the U.S., so that’s typically not an issue we see here,” he said. “The ear infections that lead to permanent hearing loss are definitely prevalent here.”

Specialists

Audiology is far from the only specialty available among the personnel taking part in the Pacific Partnership mission, and for Thomas, it is an incredible reward to see the effect that has on the people they help.

“A big thing for Pacific Partnership is the specialties they don’t have and can’t sustain. It has a long-lasting impact. I was a surface warfare officer for 14 years, and none of those deployments were as enjoyable as this one – you didn’t have the feel of the impact on the local population,” he said. “You don’t have the feeling of, ‘I’m affecting lives on a local basis.’ I became an audiologist in 2015, and I have been begging, kicking and screaming to go on Pacific Partnership ever since. I finally got on this one, and I’ve already thrown my hat in to go on next year’s as well.”

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.


You also may be interested in...

U.S. forces conduct a cooperative health engagement in Thailand

Article
3/14/2018
A child practices using floss during a cooperative health engagement at Watsomboonnaram School in support of Cobra Gold 2018 in Rayong province, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 16, 2018. A CHE provides an opportunity for service members to provide the local community with basic medical, dental and optometry care. Cobra Gold 18 is an annual exercise conducted in the Kingdom of Thailand and runs from Feb. 13-23 with seven full participating nations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Justin Huffty)

Cobra Gold 18 is an annual exercise conducted in the Kingdom of Thailand

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

Navy Medicine's engagement in global health

Article
1/25/2018
Navy nurse leading Chamorro student nurses in ward inspection (1948). The Navy became involved in the affairs on Guam in 1898. In 1911, Navy nurses established a training school in Guam to instruct Chamorro women in health and hygiene. (BUMED archives)

The Navy Medical Department performs a wide range of humanitarian operations, scientific research, and medical surveillance as part of a global health initiative

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

The Department of Veterinary Science institutionalizes Global Health Engagement training

Article
1/25/2018
U.S. Army Veterinary Corps Officers discuss dog handler medical training and physical examination techniques with their Sri Lankan counterparts. (Photo Credit: LTC Matthew Levine)

The Department of Veterinary Science at the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School. Health Readiness Center of Excellence, is driving change by preparing Veterinary Corps Officers to plan and execute GHE activities in support of Theater Security Cooperation

Recommended Content:

Veterinary Service | Global Health Engagement

Joint efforts in search of a cure for tropical diseases

Article
1/11/2018
Dr. Gissella Vasquez, deputy director of the Entomology Department at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 6, inspects a vector trap at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras. The Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element, NAMRU- 6 and the Uniformed Service University of the Health Sciences partnered for an ongoing tropical disease study, testing live samples and collecting vectors that could be potential carriers for diseases. (U.S. Army photo by Maria Pinel)

Malaria. Dengue. Zika.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Mosquito-Borne Illnesses | Health Readiness

Deployed Airman provides critical care anywhere

Article
1/5/2018
Air Force Capt. Asha Wyatt, 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron aeromedical evacuation operations officer and flight nurse, poses for a photo at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 28, 2017. Wyatt is deployed from Pope Army Airfield, N.C., and has been in the Air Force for six years. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Divine Cox

When injured airmen need to be transported, the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron’s airmen provide patients with lifesaving emergency and prehospital care

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Global Health Engagement

Airman builds medical relationships in Vietnam

Article
12/29/2017
Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Cody Butler, a physical therapist and commander of the 78th Medical Group Clinical Medicine Flight, poses with other members of his engagement team in Tam Ky, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam, Nov. 30, 2017. Butler was in Vietnam as part of a team seeing patients and building relationships with local physicians during the humanitarian assistance engagement Operation Pacific Angel Vietnam 2017. (Air Force photo by Jonathan Bell)

Operation Pacific Angel ensures the militaries in the Pacific region are able to work together should a humanitarian assistance need arise

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Building Partner Capacity and Interoperability | Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief

It's a small world after all with rise in global health engagements

Article
12/11/2017
Dr. Mansour Niang (left), a Senegalese gynecologist, and Dr. Anthony Donaldson, a major in the Vermont Air National Guard, perform surgery during a joint medical readiness training exercise at a hospital in Dakar, Senegal. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Simon Flake)

Efforts’ benefits go beyond protection at home, abroad

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

U.S. Military HIV Research Program

Fact Sheet
12/8/2017

The U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) is at the forefront of the battle against HIV to protect U.S. troops from infection and to reduce the global impact of the disease.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment

Increasing Partner-Nation Capacity Through Global Health Engagement

Publication
12/6/2017

GHE operations, activities, and actions (OAA) are used to implement the Secretary of Defense Policy Guidance for DoD GHE and the U.S. Army Medicine 2017 Campaign Plan in direct support of the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) theater campaign plan (TCP) and U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) theater campaign support plan.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Building Partner Capacity and Interoperability

Trauma Care in Support of Global Military Operations

Publication
12/6/2017

The Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Trauma System (JTS) revolutionized combat casualty care by creating a trauma system for the battlefield.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Force Health Protection

AFHSB's health surveillance program supports Defense Department global health engagement efforts

Article
11/30/2017
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Douglass, left, an aerospace medical technician, watches as Liberian health care workers properly put on their personal protective equipment as part response by the Defense Department operation to provide logistics, training and engineering support during the Ebola virus outbreak. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes)

Navy Commander Franca R. Jones, chief of the Global Emerging Infections section at the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch (AFHSB) discusses how AFHSB's health surveillance program supports the Defense Department global health engagement efforts.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Global Emerging Infections Surveillance | Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Surveillance | Febrile and Vector-Borne Infections (FVBI) Surveillance | Enteric Infections (EI) Surveillance | GEIS Partners | Global Health Engagement

Strengthening capabilities, fostering partnership top priorities at global health summit

Article
10/27/2017
Admiral Tim Ziemer, head of U.S. delegation, giving remarks at the Global Health Security Agenda Ministerial Meeting in Kampala, Uganda.

A growing partnership of more than 60 nations is working to build countries’ capacity to help create a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats and elevate global health security

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Global Health Security Agenda

DoD Instruction 2000.30: Global Health Engagement Activities

Policy

This instruction establishes policy, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes procedures for the conduct of global health engagement activities with partner nation (PN) entities.

Exercise Immediate Response 16

Video
1/13/2017
Exercise Immediate Response 16

Soldiers and Airmen practice combat trauma care with allied and partner nation medical service members at Cerklje ob Krki, Slovenia, as part of exercise Immediate Response.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Global Health Engagement
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 46 - 60 Page 4 of 6

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing: Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.