One of the indications that things have improved dramatically is that in August 2007, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Otolaryngology Congress will be held in Ho Chi Min City.
Explore this issue:June 2006
‘I would urge people to get involved in activities like this for what it will do for (them) as well as what (they) will do for others.’
Trust Builds over Time
Charles Krause, MD, who accompanied Dr. Bailey on two visits to Vietnam, noted how the Vietnamese otolaryngologists’ trust in their colleagues from the United States has continued to build over time. Dr. Krause was the Chair of the Otolaryngology Department at the University of Michigan, where he was also the Senior Associate Dean of the Medical College. He is now retired and lives in Marco Island, Fla.
Like Dr. Bailey, he was struck by the changes in the country overall between the first and second visits he made, and the increased presence of cars and motorcycles. You could tell the common people were much better off than previously, he said.
Recalling the contrast in medical facilities between the two visits, Dr. Krause remarked, The facilities and equipment were 50 years behind what we’re used to. The second time, they had endoscopes and cameras. However, repairing broken equipment was still problematic.
Lingering Impact of the War
The Vietnam War is still a presence, and participants on both sides can meet in these exchanges. On our second visit, one of the otolaryngologists who had been a pilot in the Vietnam War had actually flown out of the base just outside of Ho Chi Min City, Dr. Krause said. He talked about the fact that, every day, there was a big open field off the runway. He wanted to go see the tunnels that exist there. He was shocked to see the field that he flew over twice every day was completely undercut with tunnels. The enemy was underground the whole time he was flying.
Conversely, one of the physicians they met in Hanoi had been a North Vietnamese army surgeon. The physician described performing surgery in underground tunnels that had first been built when the Vietnamese were fighting the French.
They had the operating room within the tunnels in such a way that air could circulate through it, Dr. Krause said. It was set up so that it could be kept reasonably clean, if you can imagine the difference between a real operating room and a dug-out area. This was a place they could do surgery without being detected.
Visits to Cuba: So Near and Yet So Far
The teams visited Cuba for the first time six years ago, and again, Dr. Bailey has visited every year since then. On the one hand, those visits are easier because Cuba is so close geographically; therefore, the long travel time and jet-lag associated with trips to Vietnam are not an issue. Obviously, other obstacles make visits to Cuba more problematic, though.