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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