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Mixed Medical Team 2019

Teaching, Training, Learning and a Big Goodbye

“This was a life-changing experience for me,” Taylor Brocato said on the eve of her departure from Vietnam, after investing three weeks in the hospitals of Hanoi. Taylor was one of five second-career nursing students from Azusa Pacific University (APU) who joined REI’s Mixed Medical Team this year. This year’s team was led by Professor Dayna Holt, who has accepted the team leader baton from Dr. Elaine Goehner.

Elaine launched REI’s initiative with nursing professionals in Vietnam several years ago. This was her last planned trip to Vietnam, and after a week of serving in five of our partner hospitals, she was honored at a special banquet, replete with good food, glowing testimonials, and many tears.

Dayna, Elaine and Lien at Phu San Hospital

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves! Dayna and Elaine were joined by Professor Jessica Oliver, also from APU, long-standing volunteer Dr. Jim Miser, Dayna’s husband Dr. Glenn Holt, and our five students: Taylor Brocato, Samantha Redmond, Katherine Nguyen, Mariam Montoya, and Nazareth Sanchez. Kathie Cowie was also part of the team, serving at Hanoi Medical University Hospital (HMUH) and Viet Duc Hospital for several weeks, coming straight in from Nepal, where REI is also active. Kathie made, as she always does, an incredible impact.

(L-R) Taylor, Samantha, Katherine, Mariam, and Nazareth

Having a large team enabled us to serve in a number of hospitals. In addition to HMUH and Viet Duc, our team served at National Children’s Hospital (NCH), Bach Mai Hospital, National ENT Hospital, Saint Paul Hospital, Phu San (Hanoi OBGYN Hospital), and Duc Giang Hospital. As usual, our service took a number of forms, from giving presentations to large groups, to giving more specialized presentations to smaller groups, to going into the wards and joining in consultations. Dayna presented and trained primarily in vascular access (IV care), among other topics, Elaine lectured on “Hospital Safety” and “Nursing Process,” as well as other topics, Jim primarily worked in the oncology department at NCH. (This was his second trip to Vietnam this fall, as he came with friend and colleague Dr. Joseph Rosenthal in early October.) Jessica lectured on “External and internal drain care of patients with brain surgery” (bet you’re sorry you missed that one) and “Care of pediatric patients post-appendectomy,” as well as other presentations. Glenn presented on “Fluid and electrolytes acid/base” and “Cardiovascular physiology,” among other subjects. Quite a smorgasbord, presented to several hundred medical professionals.

Glenn at Saint Paul Hospital

The APU nursing students were largely there to look, listen and learn, but they also gave a presentation on “Body mechanics and safe patient handling and transferring.” This presentation was given to approximately 300 Vietnamese nursing students at Bach Mai. Katherine is Vietnamese-American, speaks Vietnamese, and when she addressed the Vietnamese students in their mother tongue, the lecture hall, quite simply, erupted. Katherine shared, “It was probably the best moment of the whole trip for me. The students cheered and cheered, and when I began to speak again, their eyes were glued to me. It was like I had said some magic word, like Oprah.“

There were other special moments too. Samantha said, “My favorite part of the whole trip was going into the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) and getting to hold the babies!” She and her colleagues enjoyed that so much, in fact, that our REI office staff Hai, who was accompanying them, had difficulty getting them to put the babies down when it was time to leave the unit. Eventually Hai put on her Drill Sergeant voice: “PUT. THE. BABIES. DOWN.” They did, and the team moved on as planned, duly impressed by Hai’s take-charge approach.

As our team gave, they also received. As Samantha put it, “I have never felt more welcomed and connected to a culture or people than I have here.” Mariam said, “My favorite part was getting tours of the hospitals and getting asked for my opinion. Vietnam is a very caring country, and they made me feel at home. It is very difficult to leave.”

And if it is difficult for Mariam, how much more so for our dear friend and partner of many years, Dr. Elaine Goehner, as she says her final goodbyes? Never say never, but she has officially hung up her spurs as REI’s Mixed Medical Team Leader. Elaine, thank you for your years of dedicated service in helping advance medical care in Vietnam, especially in the domain of nursing. You have made a significant impact on the country. Vietnam is grateful. REI is grateful. Thank you, Elaine.

Thanks too to all of our team members, who gave of themselves in order to serve in this special country. And thanks to you who are reading this as well, for your interest and support of what REI is doing in Vietnam and around the world, as we continue building people to build nations!

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