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Vietnam: 2017 Highlights

Updated: Feb 17, 2019

The end of 2017 is upon us! A time for reflection and gratitude for what has been accomplished as we continue building people to build nations. As we look back, here are some of the highlights of the year that come to mind.

ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat) Team - In February Dr. Brent Senior led our largest volunteer team to date to teach and train in Hanoi. Over 20 medical and other professionals served at National ENT Hospital, Hanoi OBGYN Hospital, National OBGYN Hospital, Bach Mai, National Children’s Hospital, E Hospital, and Vietnam-Cuba Hospital. As Dr. Brent put it, every year we see incremental improvements in surgeon skills and medical practice generally. It’s a bit like watching grass grow, but over the past 20 years we have seen genuine, life-changing progress. 2017 significantly moved that progress forward.

Dental Team - Dr. Jim Sandlin led a remarkably talented team of dental professionals to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) in March, serving primarily in the National Hospital of Odonto-Stomatology (“Dentistry,” to most of us) and in Hanoi Medical University. Drs. Nga and Tung accompanied the team to HCMC to participate in a dental exposition, and Dr. Nga later joined Dr. Mary Burns, one of our team members, for several weeks of observation and training in the USA during the summer. We are seeing improvement in people’s quality of life through resolving jaw pain, breathing issues, and dental problems, both functional and aesthetic.

Our Business Education Teams served in April and in November, led by John Scruton-Wilson in the spring and Del Goehner and Dr. Suzanne Garrett in the fall. In addition to our regular lineup of offerings, this year saw the launch of the second class in our Applied Management Competency Certificate (AMCC) course, hosted by Hanoi University (HANU). We also entered into discussions with a university in HCMC, where we plan to begin the AMCC in the fall of 2018.

A related highlight of the year was the 15-year anniversary celebration of HANU’s Faculty of Management and Tourism, and the 50-year anniversary celebration of HANU’s English Department. Both REI volunteers and resident staff have contributed heavily to these programs over the years, and were received as honored guests. Dr. Diana and Jerry Dudzik, Bob and Ginny Motsay, and Presley McFadden were all presented with special certificates of appreciation for their outstanding work at HANU over many years. And by the way, let us go on record as saying that our HANU friends know how to party!

A list of our highlights would have to include the impact being made by our Nurses Educational Team. This may be the program which has had the most dramatic impact over the past few years. Thanks to Team Leader Dr. Elaine Goehner and Dr. James Miser, an increasing number of hospital directors and staff have been challenged to develop the area of Patient Safety. Initiatives in wound care and pain management are underway. Long-time volunteer Kathie Cowie invested several weeks in Hanoi, helping nursing staff understand the reasons behind the protocols. We are seeing lower incidents of infection and better outcomes overall. Azusa Pacific University has stepped up big time in partnering with REI, sending faculty to teach and train, and receiving Vietnamese nurse leaders in California for further development in Leadership in Nursing.

Students on our Student Exchange Teams (one from Texas and one from New York City) hit a home run with their counterparts in Hanoi, bonding well in their cultural exchange of several weeks during the summer. Apparently sweat from the summer heat makes good glue! Our students from Texas Tech worked primarily with students from the University of Languages and International Studies (ULIS), while our student team from New York University worked at Tea Talk with Presley and the Tea Talk staff, developing and implementing programs there. Presley later commented that this program was not only a highlight of the year, but one of the highlights of his years of service in Vietnam.

Where do we draw the line? Our Otology Team’s service, the People’s Committee’s awards to long-term volunteers Dr. Austin Raunikar and Dr. Mark Duster, the PACCOM award to REI as one of Vietnam’s outstanding NGOs, the continued development of a low-cost, portable, fiberoptic nasolaryngoscope for early screening and detection of head and neck cancers by Dr. Walter Lee in partnership with Duke University, the launch of Art Journaling as part of the counseling branch of CoRE (a social-work NGO founded by REI staff Michael Ong), our robust J-1 program, which brings Vietnamese to the USA for professional training and cultural exchange... We certainly want to remember the patient, persistent work of service performed by our resident team this year, including Michael and Jacqueline Ong, Presley and Mary McFadden, Chris Sayles, and Zonia Go. Their service in Hanoi was not for a week or two, but for 52 weeks!

Another highlight is how so many people have voted for REI with their dollars this year. We are thankful to see an increase in the number of our partners and supporters. We trust that as our financial base expands and deepens, we will be able to do even more to build people to build their nation.

2017 has been a very good year!

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