REI-Vietnam News

Beyond Partnership:  “Our Friends, our Brothers”

by REI-Vietnam |

Image: Beyond Partnership:  “Our Friends, our Brothers”
- Dr. Walter Lee and Dr. Ky in the REI Fellows Program

Dr. Ky has been one of REI’s friends and partners for a number of years, working as the Head of Research and Training Department, and the Head of Cancer and Head & Neck Surgery Center of the National ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat) Hospital in Hanoi. A number of REI’s medical professionals, including Dr. Craig Hedges and Dr. Walter Lee, have served in this hospital over a period of many years. Dr. Ky has proven to be a like-minded partner in our goal of building up Vietnam through building up its people, and has eagerly received our visiting professionals.

But it is one thing to receive a guest in your own culture and context; it is another thing altogether to visit that person in his. As you yourself have most likely experienced, getting to know an office worker on the job, and then visiting him in his home, meeting his family, and connecting with him on a more personal level expands the relationship in surprising ways. So it has been with our Fellows program.

Dr. Ky, who had never been to the USA before, began his 7-week Fellowship in the cornfields of Iowa, visiting Dr. Craig and Rebecca Hedges. Dr. Craig has made 21 visits to Vietnam in the past 20 years, many of those visits including the National ENT Hospital, and so knew Dr. Ky well, but this was his first time to welcome Dr. Ky into his home (though not his first time hosting Fellows—over the years, the Hedges have hosted seven)! “Our time with Dr. Ky was primarily hospitality extended to an old friend, and not medical training,” said Dr. Craig later. “I recently retired and consequently had less opportunity to bring him into a hospital or clinic, so we focused on just enjoying one another’s company and introducing him to American culture, Iowa style.” Dr. Ky commented on the vastness of the American landscape, noting the “huge grass fields, the huge corn fields, the huge Rocky Mountains” (which he saw later in the trip). “This is a very big country!” He was also impressed by the roominess of the Interstate highway system. Not surprising, given that in Hanoi if time stopped and traffic froze, one could probably cross the highway by stepping on the helmeted heads of the motorcyclists.

The next phase of Dr. Ky’s Fellowship was with Dr. Walter Lee, who is, among other things, the Co-Director of the Head and Neck Program at Duke University Cancer Institute. It was with Dr. Walter that the medical training ramped up. From September 21-24 Drs. Walter and Ky attended the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) Annual Meeting & OTO EXPO, billed as “the world’s best gathering of otolaryngologists.” Held each fall, the AAO-HNSF Annual Meeting & OTO EXPO provides an opportunity for thousands of Academy members, non-member physicians, allied health professionals, administrators, and exhibiting companies to converge. This gave opportunity for all the participants, including Dr. Ky, to be exposed to the latest in patient care and technological advances. The two of them also attended MedCity Engage 2014 in Bethesda, MD, where Dr. Walter was one of the featured speakers. This was focused on how to better engage patients to participate in their care.

Dr. Ky also accompanied Dr. Walter on his day-to-day rounds at Duke. As Dr. Ky describes it, “I had the chance to participate with an American team working to take care of their patients, from the initial examination, to operation, to follow up…. I learned about the very strict workflows they apply in the hospital. In the US you seek to do anything that is the best for patient… We will have to grow in our thinking, to develop in prioritizing patient care and safety.”

Beyond the opportunities for exposure to the best medical care and thinking the US has to offer, Dr. Ky also had time to reflect. The medical community in Vietnam is often so heavily engaged with the daily demands that there is little to no time to simply think about things, think about how to do things better. Dr. Ky was able to think about how to lead his team in Hanoi, how to develop his staff, how to apply the things he had learned at Duke and elsewhere.

Dr. Ky also briefly visited New York City and then spent a few days in Colorado with REI staff there. His wife, Dr. Uyen, arrived on October 22 to join her husband in the visit, although she did not participate in the medical training element of the fellowship.

But for Dr. Ky and for our REI professionals, one of the richest paybacks was that of deepened relationships. Spending time with Dr. Craig and Rebecca in Iowa, the home of Dr. Walter, his wife Julia, and their three boys, and then later in Colorado Springs with Brian and Ginny Teel, Bob and Ginny Motsay, Jeff and Beth Stebbins… Ky and Uyen became family. Not just colleagues, partners, or even friends, but family.

As Dr. Ky concluded upon reflecting on his Fellowship, “Dr. Walter Lee and Dr. Craig Hedges are our friends, our brothers. Dr. Hedges is our teacher and our older brother. We are proud of having him in our team. Dr. Lee is smart and we like his thinking. I’m lucky to have time to talk to him… It was such a great time. I will never forget it.”

REI-Vietnam deeply appreciates Drs. Ky, Craig, and Walter et al. as our partners, our friends, our family. And we appreciate you as a member of our family as well, as we continue to build people to build their nation!

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