The Defence Minister was addressing the Indo-Pacific Military Health Exchange Conference

Calling for innovation & increased international co-operation to deal with issues that affect the health of the world, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said the last two years had brought out the very best amongst the medical fraternity

“Despite limitations such as short warning period, pressure on existing infrastructure and disparity in resources, the last two years have brought out the very best amongst the medical fraternity, civil society volunteer groups and governments which went out of the way to help those in need during the pandemic,” Singh said.

He added that this collective experience had showcased various invaluable lessons for facing similar challenges in the future.

The Defence Minister was addressing the Asia Pacific Military Health Exchange (APMHE) being co-hosted by the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) and US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) from March 7-10.

Defence Minister Singh described the medical service as an important pillar for any military, saying that in addition to their own combat-related duties, they are the most valuable second responders in times of natural and man-made calamities & crises and are in a perpetual state of readiness.

He lauded the AFMS for promoting and delivering preventive, curative, rehabilitative medical care to the serving soldier/sailor/airman and their families and the veterans with utmost professionalism.

The four-day virtual conference will provide an opportunity to share emerging and recent scientific information and to discuss regional issues and concerns of military health significance. The event will include more than 600 participants from 38 nations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

A delegation of 20 members from the organizing committee of the USINDOPACOM is in New Delhi to co-host the conference. The delegates and speakers will interact and share experiences over the four days on 110 topics.

The APMHE focuses on the entire military health team, including all corps and all services and this year’s theme is “Military Healthcare in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) World”.

Minister Rajnath Singh lauded the significant role played by AFMS and USINDOPACOM in addressing the challenges posed by COVID-19.

The idea of Indo-Pacific reflects the sentiment of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family). The Minister recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore in 2018 where he had said “The Indo-Pacific stands for a free, open, inclusive region, which embraces all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity. It includes all nations in this geography as also others beyond who have a stake in it.”

Singh also commended the meaningful impact of the IPMHE in the field of military medicine across the world through a sustained professional collaboration between doctors, nurses, dentists and medical administrators.

“The IPMHE has clearly proved their ability to deliver health care under the most trying circumstances. This has been achieved through hard training, perseverance and motivation over many years, which our health care professionals in uniform have in abundance. To make the impact of military medicine more meaningful, Armed Forces of various countries and the USINDOPACOM have created an important platform in the form of this conference for sharing experiences and facilitate gainful learning,” he said.

He further stressed the importance of military medicine and the need for increased cooperation among countries in issues that affect the health of the world. He called for continued improvement in medical research and medical training, keeping with the present scenario, saying that the deliberations on these during the conference will be beneficial to all.

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old. Therefore, new creations and innovations are necessary for the advancement in any field. I am glad to know that the innovation session will showcase in-house innovations by our young and able medical officers,” he added.

Sharing his views on the important role played by women in the Armed Forces across the world, Rajnath Singh said, the Government believes in providing enhanced responsibilities to women at par with their male counterparts.

“Different countries have different terms of engagement and employment for women in uniform. In India, women have distinguished themselves in the field of Combat Medical Care, not only as health care providers but also through their leadership at the highest level of the profession,” he said.

US Navy Command Surgeon Rear Admiral Pamela C Miller highlighted the importance of shared practices and teamwork to meet medical challenges in rapidly changing scenarios. She also thanked India for hosting the conference despite the uncertainties in the past two years.

The keynote address was delivered by WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan who spoke on ‘Global Health Challenges and the role of leadership in a VUCA world’.

In his welcome address, DG AFMS Surgeon Vice Admiral Rajat Datta highlighted the role of military healthcare in an unpredictable world.

He said that the Indo Pacific Military Health Exchange 2021-22 holds great significance and is especially relevant in the aftermath of the global pandemic as the world is finally moving towards a normal life after adopting some 'new normals'.

The broad subjects under this theme are challenges and lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic, Tropical emergencies, Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), Health Protection and Promotion in a Military Environment and experience in Combat Medical Support.

The Conference will have simultaneous scientific sessions, poster presentations, panel discussions and exhibitions encompassing the broad themes. Eminent experts in the field of Military Medicine will deliver the keynote address & plenary talks.

The conference will highlight several important topics including operational/combat medical care, tropical medicine, field surgery, field anesthesia, aviation & marine medicine emergencies etc.