Knowledge and skills: something to hoard for one’s own personal benefit, or something to share for the benefit of others? We all understand the need for proprietary information. None of us expects to find the Coca-Cola company cheerfully giving away its secret beverage formula to its competitors, but in health care we do hope for more. We hope to see advances in understanding and methodology freely shared among health care professionals to improve the level of health for all people. In Vietnam, we are seeing remarkable breakthroughs in the sharing of information, especially among the nursing professionals here.
Category – Medicine
Among our volunteer teams, our medical teams are arguably the largest and consequently bring the most impact. Among our medical teams, our ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat) teams are arguably the largest and consequently bring the most impact. This spring REI fielded two ENT teams, serving in Vietnam’s two largest cities, with quite different emphases, but also with significant overlap.
We all thrill to the drama of rescue, be it a rescue of stranded and injured mountaineers, the Coast Guard coming to the aid of a sinking boat, or even a dramatic, life-saving surgery. But while these situations can hold us spellbound, riveted to the TV screen, by and large we would prefer that the climbers simply make an uneventful ascent, that the boats all stay afloat, and that no surgery would be necessary. This month Dr. Laura Bishop’s recent OBGYN Team invested 10 days in Hanoi and Hue, giving instruction and training in how to avoid the dramatic, or, when unavoidable, how to deal with it.
REI works in five strategic sectors in Vietnam (Medical, Agriculture, Social Work, Business Education and English Education). Of these, our medical work has the greatest number of short-term volunteer teams. What do we foresee for 2018?
Significant, meaningful change rarely happens overnight. REI’s Mixed Medical Team (i.e., made up of doctors and nurses), led by Dr. Elaine Goehner (at center above), has been serving in hospitals in Vietnam for 10 years (or 20, depending on perspective; more on that below). We are seeing genuine advances in healthcare. One especially encouraging change is the dramatic increase in teamwork between hospitals as they share what they know with one another and work together to provide better healthcare to the Vietnamese people.
A few months ago long-time REI friends and volunteers, Dr. Austin Raunikar (third from left above) and Dr. Mark Duster (far left above), were invited to attend the 10th Annual Symposium of the Cardiovascular Center of Hue Central Hospital, held in June, as guest lecturers. While they were there something unexpected happened.
Partnerships can come in many forms. There are legally binding partnerships, as defined by contracts. There are partnerships formalized in writing, expressing expectations and agreed-upon goals, as defined by Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs). And there are informal partnerships, perhaps best defined as partnerships of friendship. These partnerships of friendship greatly increase the impact of REI as we seek to build people to build nations.
REI has hosted a large number of volunteer teams serving in Vietnam over the past 25 years. Generally we seek to field one team at a time, to simplify logistics. But this month we had three volunteer teams of specialists serve simultaneously! Our Dental Team, Cochlear Implant/Otology Team, and a new initiative, our Art Journaling Team, served in Hanoi the final week of March—our own version of March Madness!
A new year, a new series of volunteer teams serving in Vietnam! Our first team of the season, our Medical Team, invested the week of February 20-24 serving in Hanoi. In the past we have called this our ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat) Team, but this year the team, our largest ever, served in a greater variety of venues than simply ENT.
“Before you came I didn't know that my knowledge was limited. You were the first person to work beside me and teach me that I can do more!” This from a young nurse at Hanoi Medical University to a member of our Nurses and Physician Team who served in Hanoi in September and October of this year. In fact, we saw an incredible amount of progress in health care in the hospitals where we have been working over the past several years. What advancements did we see?
Congenital heart defects affect 8 out of 1000 newborns, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Even 15 years ago, many of these newborns would simply die in Vietnam. Today, with the advances made in pediatric cardiology, most of these infants can be successfully treated and go on to live healthy, normal lives. Long-time REI volunteer Dr. Austin Raunikar is seeking to help raise the standard of children’s heart care in Vietnam.
For many of us Westerners, this is the season of giving. We here at REI would like to share with you a story of giving—a story of kindness, of generosity, of devotion, of hope. It involves many people, though we will focus on only a few. May your heart be encouraged and inspired!
What should be the emphasis in health care? This question could receive a variety of responses. Better health outcomes? Patient satisfaction? A good bottom line for shareholders? Dr. Elaine Goehner, our team leader for our Nurses/Mixed Medical Team, believes that the emphasis must be on patient safety, achieved through better teamwork among the different health care professionals.