WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Transporting sick and injured military members and dependents by air from areas lacking certain medical requirements is an important part of the Air Force mission.
Often serving as mobile hospitals these aircraft travel with teams of medical professionals who are dedicated to treating and caring for patients in a high altitude environment.
Key to the success of those medical transport operations is the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Aeromedical Test Lab, which is responsible for testing all medical devices that are used on aeromedical evacuations to ensure they will safely operate on the plane – because devices that work well on the ground may not work as well in the air.
According to Lt. Col. Dwayne Rolniak, lab chief and flight nurse, the lab tests a variety of devices including blood pressure monitors, ventilators, and isolation chambers designed to safely contain highly contagious patients.
“We test to make sure that the piece of the medical device that works on the ground can work in an environment in the air with altitude of 37, 000 ft. with different pressure, different oxygen levels,” Rolniak said. “We want to make sure that the aircraft, their electronics are not interfering with our devices and our devices are not interfering with the aircraft.”
Rolniak went on to say that because medical professionals may perform surgery in the air, his office tests surgical tables to ensure they are sturdy enough for flight.
1st Lt. Coraviece Terry, an engineer with ATL is one of several on the team that are responsible for testing medical devices before they go into the field.
“My job is to determine the functionality of the device, then how best to test it and what test are needed,” said Terry. “I like the hands on part of the job. I get to use my engineering intelligence and connect to the mission by approving devices that will save lives.”
According to Rolniak the impact of the office and medical aeromedical evacuation is huge.
“Ultimately the goal is getting patients the best care in the air,” Rolniak said. “The last rates that I’ve heard is that over 99 percent of the patients we get to in an evacuation survive. It’s an unbelievable success rate. If you can get them on the plane, they are probably going to live.”