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  • Writer's pictureREI

Double or Nothing

Updated: Feb 17, 2019

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.

Our first team of volunteer professionals for 2018 landed in Hanoi in late February, serving in three different hospitals from February 26 to March 2. This team was smaller, made up of two surgeons, Dr. Craig Hedges and Dr. Marty Trott. When asked how many trips he has made into Vietnam, Craig hesitated and then said, “I’m not sure—26 or 27?” Craig was a member of REI’s initial survey team which visited Vietnam in 1992, and began traveling into the country to help train his Vietnamese counterparts shortly thereafter. Marty has come to Vietnam twice with Dr. Brent Senior’s ENT team, and returned this year to team up with Craig.

Craig and Marty both describe themselves as medical practitioners rather than academicians, and feel more at home in the consultation room and in the OR than in a lecture hall. And so both of them spent time working with old and new friends and colleagues in National ENT Hospital, E Hospital, and Vietnam-Cuba Hospital, discussing cases and coaching during surgeries, as well as doing some teaching. "This trip was exceptional," Marty said. "I see so much progress in programs and capacity at E Hospital and Vietnam-Cuba especially. I wish more people would do this. It is an incredible exchange opportunity--it's not as though I leave Vietnam without having learned something too!"

After hours Craig in particular was able to renew and deepen friendships with old buddies. He and his wife Rebecca have hosted six fellows under the REI Fellows Program, under the J-1 visa, and Craig enjoyed getting together with some of these old friends to discuss life. (Someone once asked us, what is REI all about? The answer was, “REI is about LIFE!”). We seek to not only help our Vietnamese friends professionally for the building up of their country, but to have a positive impact in every area of life. “Bringing professional help and personal hope” has long been one of our taglines.

Two weeks after Craig and Marty returned home, our second team of ENT professionals arrived, led by Dr. Brent Senior. This was a larger team, with 17 participants serving for one week in Ho Chi Minh City. We are thankful for each member of our team: Dr. Brent, his wife Dana, Dr. Harold Pine, Dr. Amber Luong, Dr. Christina Yang, Dr. Randy Otto, Dr. Dayton Young, Dr. Dole Baker, Dr. Azeem Vasi, Dr. Andrew Coughlin, Dr. Dhave Setabutr, Dr. Rosandra Walker, Dr. Peyton Hines, Dr. Andrew Muck, Angela Cao, Jeremy Feintuch, and Joshua Feintuch.

Many members of this team are also university lecturers, and so the first two days of their week of service (March 19-23) were devoted to an ENT Update 2018, hosted by ENT Hospital but attended by representatives of over 20 other hospitals in the city. A partial list of presentations would include “Pitfalls of Maxillary Antrostomy,” “Rhinology Surgical Checklist,” “Outcomes of Cochlear Implantation,” “Cleft Lip Rhinoplasty,” “Superior Canal Dehiscence,” “Botumlinum Toxin Injection,” and “Sialendoscopy,” among others. Happily for the non-ENT participants, the schedule also included such easily understood items as “Lunch,” although the subject of "What's that little red dangly thing in the back of the throat?" was somehow omitted.

But much of the team’s service took place outside of the lecture hall. In addition to ENT Hospital, our volunteers worked at Gia Dinh Hospital, Nguyen Tri Phuong Hospital, and Pham Ngoc Thach Medical University, giving consultations prior to surgery and then often sitting in on, or even performing, the surgeries agreed upon during the consultations.

Practical training also took place using non-traditional methods—who would have known that a red pepper simulates the sinus cavities so closely?

And as is so often the case with our gracious Vietnamese hosts, recognition for many years of service was given. Dr. Brent, Dr. Harold, and our own Madame Lien each received a plaque of appreciation, presented to them by Dr. Tran Phan Chung Thuy, Director of ENT Hospital (in the red jacket below), for their faithful years of devoted service.

Two teams, two great weeks, two cities, two emphases. We at REI are grateful for the sacrifice of so many in order to further health care in Vietnam, and as always, thankful too for the partnerships we have with our dear friends and colleagues in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

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