USS MAKIN ISLAND, At Sea (NNS) -- Amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) has one of the largest medical departments in the fleet aside from the hospital ships USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) and USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), and has acquired some new faces with unique specialties to aid their mission overseas.
Makin Island has added a psychiatrist to their medical staff in addition to an osteopathic physician and family care physician trained in acupuncture. Together they will stand up integrated services in mental health, musculoskeletal care, and pain treatment.
Lt. Benjamin M. Boche of Fleet Surgical Team 5 (FST-5) is the psychiatrist aboard Makin Island and said being aboard is "cutting edge" and strengthens and diversifies the medical department capabilities.
"As the Navy has been working with Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU), it's estimated that 50 percent of medical evacuations are mental health related," said Boche. "So, having a psychiatrist aboard really bolsters the capacity of the medical department to provide better care for the Sailors and Marines to keep them in the fight."
Boche offers a wide variety of care, ranging from medication and group therapy to individual treatment and counseling. He holds group classes Monday through Saturday that deals with a range of issues and gives Sailors and Marines tools to address their issues.
"Sailors and Marines should also know that they can really come and talk to me in a confidential manner and get the help they need," said Boche. "The only time I would notify the chain of command is if there are significant safety issues or gross breaches of the Uniform Code of Military Justice."
The medical department can also offer treatments for Sailors and Marines with physical pain who do not prefer or have exhausted narcotic options.
Osteopathic manipulation treatment (OMT) is another service the medical department may provide to Sailors and Marines aboard Makin Island during deployment as alternative pain treatment.
Lt. Jacob Taylor is a doctor of osteopathy with the 11th MEU and is trained in OMT. Osteopathic physicians are required to learn OMT as part of their requirements in medical school.
OMT is an adjunctive treatment for back pain as well as other physical ailments that deal with the musculoskeletal system. "Having that added to the medical department gives more options to the patient for the care that they can receive," said Taylor.
Sailors and Marines seeking care are prescreened for OMT, and if they qualify are scheduled for a clinic with Taylor.
Acupuncture is another option that may be offered for Sailors and Marines dealing with pain.
Lt. Blake A. Marvin of FST-5 is a family care physician trained in auricular acupuncture, or ear acupuncture. Ear acupuncture has shown to have many different uses and one of which is alleviating pain.
"We know that acupuncture affects the pain centers in your brain," said Marvin. "We don't know what wires it takes to get there, but we know it helps to reduce how your body or brain perceives pain."
Marvin, Taylor, Boche and the medical department as a whole are working together as a multi-disciplinary team to get the right treatment to the right people.
"Our goal is to pre-screen people to find the best way we are able to treat pain, whether it be acupuncture, OMT or, if necessary, getting people plugged in to get the appropriate behavioral interventions that they need," said Marvin.
Senior medical officer (SMO) and Family Care physician aboard Makin Island, Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Baldwin, oversees the medical department and said, "As SMO, I'm really fortunate to have all of these people and the different specialties they bring to the table."
"As Surgeon General, Adm. Mathew L. Nathan said when I first came here, 'the primary mission of Navy Medicine is readiness.' When you incorporate that complimentary, integrated approach with all of the different specialties, you have a much more ready and resilient Sailor or Marine to go out and accomplish the mission, and that's what we're in business for," said Baldwin about having different specialists on board Makin Island.
Makin Island is on a scheduled deployment to promote peace and freedom of the seas by providing deterrence, humanitarian aid and disaster response while supporting the Navy's maritime strategy in the U.S. 7th and 5th Fleet areas of responsibility.