Country Spotlight: Vietnam

IVUmed collaborates with partners in more than 20 countries. Vietnam stands out as one of the very first countries IVUmed established relationships in.

The first IVUmed workshop in Vietnam was in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in 1994. Since then, IVUmed volunteers have led 29 workshops in the country. While the first workshop in 1994 focused on pediatric urology, IVUmed now leads workshops focused on an array of different sub-fields, such as general urology, reconstructive urology, & endourology. Over the years, IVUmed expanded its partnerships in Vietnam and now collaborates with providers in Hue, San Pedro Sula, Nha Trang, & Danang, in addition to those in Ho Chi Minh City.

Jennifer Heckman, MD travelled to Hue, Vietnam in March of 2016. Dr. Heckman noted that “the urologists in Hue are well-trained, and in a city of about 350,000 people, there are 12-15 urologists who practice in three hospitals and numerous clinics throughout the city. Training is different from that in the United States, with medical school graduates paying to participate in residency programs. Urology residency, like other specialties, is three years in duration, and in early post-residency careers, one sees young urologists practicing and operating alongside more senior urologists.”

Given IVUmed’s long-standing partnerships in Vietnam, it isn’t surprising that IVUmed volunteers have served more than 700 patients in the country and provided more than $4 million in services. When IVUmed volunteers first began working with Vietnamese pediatric surgeons in 1994, there were fewer than 100 pediatric urology patients treated annually. Now, IVUmed’s partners run their own training programs and treat more than 1000 patients annually.

IVUmed volunteer Steven Kahan, MD has enjoyed multiple workshops in Vietnam. He comments that these workshops are “the purest form of medicine.” Dr. Kahan shared, “this is the reason I went to medical school. This was about working one on one with students, caring directly for patients and teaching other doctors new techniques so that they can in turn treat patients on their own when we leave.”

IVUmed volunteers in Vietnam consistently return home feeling fulfilled. This fulfillment stems not only from offering aid. IVUmed volunteers regularly gain new insights and even new surgical knowledge.

Tiffany Perkins, MD, who served as an IVUmed Resident Scholar, commented on the educational aspect of the experience. She remarked, “We had very interesting surgeries throughout the week including partial cystectomy for urachal mass, partial penectomy for penile cancer, radical orchiectomy for testicular mass, radical nephrectomy for renal mass, laparoscopic varicocelectomy, laparoscopic seminal vesicle mass excision, and multiple stone procedures including open pyelolithotomy as well as ureteroscopy. As a resident, I was grateful to participate in their surgeries and learn from the staff. I was very excited to perform my first open pyelolithotomy with Dr. Hung, as this case is not commonly done in the United States. I was very impressed with the resourcefulness and technical skills in the operating room. The urologists in Hue were very meticulous with their dissections maintaining very minimal blood loss and working through very small incisions.”

IVUmed workshops offer unique opportunities for growth, both for providers in low-resource countries and for IVUmed volunteers. The goal of every IVUmed workshop is to Teach One, Reach Many. However, this transmission of knowledge goes both ways. While our volunteers depart with the goal of teaching local providers how to perform specialized surgeries in urology, they return home with broadened cultural awareness, surgical capabilities, and, often, a greater sense of purpose.

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IVUmed Resident Scholar Dr. Joel Hancock Reflects on His Workshop in India

Thanks to the generous support of the Southeastern Section of the American Urological Association, Dr. Joel Hancock had an memorable experience in Mahuva, Gujarat, India, where he volunteered his time at the annual Mahuva Camp at the Sabdhavna Trust Hospital in February 2019.

Dr. Hancock shares his experience:

“We spent our time at Sadbhavna Trust Hospital in Mahuva, India. This is a small city outside of Bhavnagar in the state of Gujarat. It sits in on the eastern side of the Arabian Sea. We spent our time working at Sadbhavna Trust Hospital, which provides basic surgical care for underserved and underfunded individuals. There is one general surgeon who performs all the basic urologic surgeries. There are also 2 OB-GYN surgeons at the hospital. And there are multiple medical officers who assist with care of the patients peri- and post-operatively.

“We were there for 7 days with 30 hours of travel on either end. The total trip was 10 days. We lived in a small apartment within the hospital near the other medical officers and surgeons (they all live in the hospital). Our meals were provided by the hospital and consisted of strictly vegan options and fresh milk from their cows that were kept on the hospital grounds.

“We operated each day for about 6-8 hours. During that time, we performed 20-30 surgeries. Other urologists from nearby cities in India made the trip to volunteer at the urologic surgical camp. The goal was to provide urologic surgical care to patients in the surrounding area who did not have other immediate options for such care. With the assistance of 4 urologists from India and Dr. Badlani from Wake Forest, we were able to treat many individuals who did not otherwise have access to the urologic care they needed.

“In a single operating room with 4 OR tables, we performed multiple PCNLs, ureteroscopy with pneumatic lithotripsies, TURPs, cystolithalopaxies, cystolithotomies, open pyeloplasties, open ureteral re-implants in pediatrics and adolescent populations, mesh and autologous mid urethral slings, and even a couple laparoscopic nephrectomies. Nearly everything was done under spinal anesthesia. The OR staff was incredibly efficient and very good at their jobs. Nearly all the equipment was reusable and nothing went to waste.

“When we weren’t operating, we were actively engaged in the local culture and customs. Some of our free time included morning yoga and pranayama on the beaches of the Arabian Sea, attending multiple local weddings, a tour of a local lion reserve, and shopping in downtown Mahuva. We were able to visit many families of the surgeons with whom we worked. Everyone was so kind and hospitable. There was never a shortage of food, tea, and good conversation.

“I will always reflect back on my time in India with the fondest of memories. I worked with many people who I would consider to be good friends now. I would love to go back and work at Sadbhavna Trust Hospital to give back to the people who gave me so much.”

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IVUmed is committed to making quality urological care available to people worldwide.