What are Medical Mission trips?
Since 1996 Project Vietnam has brought medical mission teams to rural provinces generally in March and November, at times when the Vietnam weather is relatively mild. The groups provide three types of services:
- Free operations to restore normal appearance to children with congenital facial deformities (mostly cleft lip & palate, a prevalent problem) and/or to correct eye defects (strabismus, cataracts, etc.). Our surgeons work with local specialists to update them on new techniques, and to develop a network for followup and referrals. Each child affected has special needs as they are at risk for development delays, speech and hearing and growth problems. In the US one child in general requires 4 corrective surgeries from birth until adolescence and supportive services (oral health, speech, audiology and occupational therapy).
- Comprehensive clinics held at rural schools offering Medical evaluations, examinations and treatments, and oral health services (cleaning, extraction and restoration) for school students as well as vision care (children receive custom-made glasses and elderly patients get donated reading glasses).
- Public Health for high risk areas in central highlands, region with highest child mortality and stunting. We are providing environment and children assessments at preschools, resulting in clean water and programs to remedy to anemia and malnutrition designed for sustainability with involvement of local Public Health students and Health department.
- Training for health personnel at all levels (hospitals and rural clinics, children’s hospitals and academic centers): we have worked for the last 15 years in building programs to advance child health. Our newborn initiative started in 2003 brought major training using the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, and directly assisted in decreasing infant mortality by 80%. Since 2010 we have focused on children with special needs and starting in 2019 we are participating within a national collaborative to create a sustainable system for Vietnam children.
The work lasts one week at each location for surgery/public health and primary care, and typically the schedule is 7AM-5PM daily, at the main province hospital for the surgery team, and visiting a different locality everyday for the Primary Care team. Patients will be provided with medicines mainly purchased in Vietnam to ensure continuity of treatment. The medical team collaborates with local health workers to allow a care plan for patients, including a one-year insurance purchases for the indigent patients with special health conditions.
Participants stay at local hotels (usually 3+ stars) and all accommodations and meals are arranged by the group. The land cost is usually about $1200 for one week and $2000 for 2 weeks. A working visa is required which is obtained through Project Vietnam. Physicians and healthcare personnel, engineers, technical people and handymen, volunteers with humanitarian passion can apply. Non-medical volunteers provide essential support for our medical mission trips, and PV will endeavor to assign volunteers to work most appropriate for their skills.
Because of the diversity of areas of assistance, volunteers are needed to help the various teams in management tasks, patient relations, assisting physicians and dentists, supplies control & distribution, support work and translation if Vietnamese-speaking. Because of the absence of local resources, patient transport, registration, instruction etc… are all done manually and offer opportunities for wonderful interactions with the children and their families.