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Moving Forward in ENT - REI's First Spring ENT Team

Spring has come to Hanoi, and with it our annual ENT (Ears, Nose, and Throat) Surgical Team, led by Dr. Brent Senior. Brent has been an integral part of this team for more than 20 years, serving as team leader for most of that time. From March 18-22 Brent led a team of 12 gifted surgeons, residents and an anesthesiologist into five different hospitals, teaching, training, and coaching our Vietnamese partners, that we might together advance ENT knowledge and practice in Vietnam.

Advancing ENT practice requires a thorough understanding of the anatomy of the head and exposure to cutting-edge technologies and procedures. So the first two days of the week were devoted to an Update in Otolaryngology Course, hosted by National ENT Hospital and attended by around 200 health care professionals from several local hospitals.

Topics addressed by our volunteers included a presentation on Sinus Anatomy, Epistaxis (do YOU know what that means? No points awarded if you are an ENT specialist!), Coblation Tonsillectomy, Skull Base Reconstruction, Eustachian Tube Balloon Dilation, Tonsillectomy Guidelines, An Anesthesiologist’s Perspective on Pediatric Airway, Simulation in ENT, Antibiotics and Sinusitis, Cochlear Implantation in Children and Adults, a Head and Neck Case Discussion, and so forth.

One of the presentations given by veteran REI volunteer Dr. Harold Pine had not a few participants initially scratching their heads, wondering how his topic fit into the ENT world. Harold’s topic was “Breast Feeding and Kids.” But yes, there IS a link. If a child is tongue-tied or lip-tied, that child may not be able to nurse properly. The Mayo Clinic describes tongue-tie as “an unusually short, thick or tight band of tissue (lingual frenulum) that tethers the bottom of the tongue's tip to the floor of the mouth, which may interfere with breast-feeding.” Harold showed how a simple surgical procedure can free the tongue (or lip), removing the impediment to breast feeding.

Our team (made up of Dr. Brent, Dr. Harold, Dr. Randy Otto, Dr. Christian Soneru, Dr. Dayton Young, Dr. Christina Yang, Dr. Sarah Hodge, Dr. Chris Prze, Dr. Ben Yang, Dr. John Arrowood, Dr. Kyle Arrowood, and Dr. Joanne Spaliaras) also benefitted from the knowledge and experience of our Vietnamese colleagues. As Dr. Randy shared a case study at the Update seminar, a question from the floor evolved into a discussion about how the Vietnamese surgeons address a certain problem. Randy said, “We’ll have to look into that. What you are doing actually seems better than what we do!” Exchange is a two-way street.

The REI team also invested time in the consultation room and OR, training and coaching hands-on with patients. Some of our team’s input was quite timely. In one case, local hospital staff were examining a baby who had had a tracheotomy, and were concluding that the trach could safely be removed. One of our surgeons suggested a further exam by scope and found that there was an obstruction that, had the trach been removed, would have likely prevented breathing altogether. The trach was left in place, and will be until the airway issue is resolved.

Genuine advancement in health care doesn’t take place overnight. But incremental improvements, year after year, add up to a lot. We are grateful to this year’s ENT team (the first of three, actually) for their service and sacrifice to further advance health care in Vietnam!

And “epistaxis,” for your information, means—nosebleed!

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