Dr. Raunikar, a pediatric cardiologist and President of the Medical Staff of the Greenville Hospital System, has served with REI-Vietnam since 2001 and has led Pediatrics/Specialties teams since 2005. This Fall’s team included pediatric and adult cardiologists (Drs. Raunikar, Mark Duster, and Jesse Jorgensen), and a Family Practice physician (Dr. Dan Mitchell). Dr. Jorgensen was brand new to the team but “you would have thought this was his tenth trip,” said Dr. Raunikar. He brought enthusiasm and contributed new ideas for adult cardiology. “We hit a real home run with [the inclusion of] Jesse!” said Dr. Raunikar.
Mark’s and Dan’s wives, both named Carol, accompanied the team to Vietnam. Carol Duster was invited to teach a baking class at Tea Talk Café and Bakery, a social enterprise café with the mission of enhancing the social and emotional well-being of Vietnamese young people. She and Carol Mitchell enjoyed talking with Michael Ong, Tea Talk’s founder, and “interacting with all the wonderful people who work and visit Tea Talk.”
The doctors provided clinical care, performed patient rounds, lectured, conducted symposia, and worked with doctors in the cardiac catheterization lab at seven different hospitals in Hanoi, Hue, and Da Nang. (According to the Cleveland Clinic’s website, “cardiac catheterization is an invasive imaging procedure that allows the doctor to evaluate heart function….and determine the need for further treatment.”) The doctors also gave informal lectures to allow for further discussion of what was previously demonstrated in the cath lab. Dr. Raunikar donated an estimated $20,000 in cardiac catheterization lab equipment to the National Heart Institute in Hanoi while the pediatrics department at the Da Nang Hospital for Women and Children was grateful to receive an EKG machine donated by Dr. Mitchell.
While in Hanoi, Drs. Raunikar and Jorgensen also worked at VINMEC International Hospital. Dr. Raunikar was very impressed with the level of preparation and readiness provided by the doctors at VINMEC, Bach Mai, and Danang Hospitals - which allowed the team to provide a significant amount of medical education. All of the lectures given by the team were translated into Vietnamese but VINMEC and Danang Women’s and Children’s went a step further by providing attendees with a handbook that contained notes from all of the lectures. Television interviews were arranged so that our doctors could promote the importance of providing medical care to underserved populations, an effort in which VINMEC is currently involved.
The President of the Vietnam Heart Association, Dr. Khai, was present for introductory comments at the televised, all-day symposium at VINMEC Hospital. Dr. Liem, Medical Director of VINMEC and former director of National hospital of Pediatrics hosted the program. Residents, faculty and referring physicians were in attendance, and doctors were brought in from outlying hospitals to participate. Dr. Raunikar was also interviewed for both print and television media outlets.
Dr. Mitchell is a Family Practice physician and is committed to growing that area of medicine in Vietnam. His and Carol’s desire is to live and work in Vietnam for at least one year beginning in the fall of 2014 as an extension of REI-VN’s vision to build people to build a nation. This is Dr. Mitchell’s thirteenth trip since 1999, so he has established relationships with many doctors and hopes to work with these friends to work out the logistics.
According to Dr. Raunikar, hospitals in Vietnam are “more digitally connected than ever before” which allows the team to offer continuing education even after they return to the US. Dr. Raunikar is pleased to be able to “continue the discussion” as well as send additional educational materials. While there, he donated over $5000 of DVD educational resource materials to doctors at the National Heart Institute and Da Nang Hospital. The DVD’s include over thirty hours of lectures from doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, so it’s as if the team brought an additional thirty doctors with them to Vietnam.
The Vietnamese “are eager to have us come and teach,” explains Dr. Raunikar. “There is an opportunity to grow pediatric specialty and adult cardiology services - a lot of opportunity if we can find the manpower to make it happen.” To do this, new leadership will need to be developed so that a team of cardiologists can travel to Vietnam more than once per year. In the future, the team hopes to work in partnership to serve the needy in outlying hospitals and to teach alongside Vietnamese doctors at the national professional level in venues such as Vietnam Heart Association meetings.
As with every trip, nurturing established relationships and forging new ones are high priorities. Friends become “like family” which makes the doctors look forward to renewing friendships on their return trips to Vietnam.