Croatian visitors watch emergency drill
Doctors learn about U.S. response capabilities
By Jeffrey Pieters
Five Croatian doctors visiting Minnesota on an international exchange were on hand to view Saturday's emergency exercise at Rochester International Airport.
The doctors, four of whom are military doctors, were guests of the Minnesota National Guard.
They came to the United States on Sept. 8 for a week of learning about this country's disaster response capabilities.
They visited the Minnesota Emergency Operations Center in St. Paul; the University of Minnesota's Department of Epidemiology laboratories; and Dr. Gregory Poland's epidemiology laboratory at Mayo Clinic.
"It was very, very useful," said Dr. Zeljko Gizdic, a military epidemiologist. "We saw many things we could implement in our country."
Many Croatian systems were torn apart by six years of civil war. But Gizdic and his colleagues boast of a sound public health infrastructure that did not allow one health epidemic to spread during the conflict.
"It's because we were very prepared," Gizdic said. "Our system was very prepared."
Other visiting doctors were Nada Debac, a family doctor; Jasminka Katona, a public health doctor; Visnja Kovacevic, a microbiologist; and Branko Turkovic, a microbiologist and the only non-military physician in the group.
Turkovic, his colleagues said, is the only Croatian non-military personnel sent to the United States in the 10-year history of the exchange program.
The National Guard will send a group to Croatia in the future.
The National Guard State Partnership Program involves 36 states, two territories and the District of Columbia in partnerships with 38 foreign countries. Croatia and Minnesota are partners in that program.
Amy Marvin, a Mayo Clinic nurse and deputy commander of the Minnesota Guard's state medical command, was host to the group.
"They're just trying to rebuild and re-establish their systems," she said. "We got to see a piece of every agency, and now we've come to see them in action."