I recently returned to volunteer in Vietnam for the first time in 13 years. On my first mission with One World Pediatric Care, I was still in nursing school, so I had limited clinical expertise, but being a native of Vietnam I was able to provide language skills and cultural knowledge to the team. I have fond memories of our team intro-ducing the Vietnamese doctors to Laparoscopy equipment and training them on its use. When we deprted, we left behind the Laparoscopy equipment. It was gratifying to return to Vietnam and find that Laparoscopy equipment is now readily available and in common use at Vietnamese hospitals and clinics.
This year, I joined a mission trip with Vietnam Health Clinic (VHC) from August 23-September 6. VHC is a student-led organization at the University of Washington dedicated to improving access to healthcare for underprivileged people in Vietnam, and recruits medical professionals to volunteer their services. I joined ten medical physicians, two doctors of dentistry, one ophthalmologist and two optometrists to accompany the approximately 40 student organizers visiting small villages in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.
In Vietnam, we traveled 2-3 hours by bus from Can Tho city to remote villages to provide care. Once in the villages, the student volunteers from VHC set up the mobile clinics; our mobile clinic was usually up and functioning an hour after we arrived. We set up different stations such as vital signs area, triage area, vision check, pharmacy, public health area and doctors’ offices.
We often served well over 300 poor and uneducated villagers in some six-plus hours of clinic work. To qualify for care at our clinics, a person’s income had to be below 400.000 dong, or about $18 a month. Many took the day off to access free health care but worried that without pay that day their family would not be able to buy food.