Editor’s Note: The following piece was written to recognize the outstanding contributions of HVO on-site coordinator and recent Golden Apple Award recipient Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Chung. HVO is incredibly grateful for the hard work and dedication of all of our on-site coordinators. These exceptional health workers enhance the experience of our volunteers and make our overseas training projects possible. If you are a volunteer and would like to share a story about an on-site coordinator who played an integral role in your overseas experience please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more than a decade, Health Volunteers Overseas has sent anesthesiologists and senior anesthesia fellows participating in the SEA-HVO Fellowship Program to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. These volunteers have improved the skills of anesthesia providers at the Hospital for Traumatology and Orthopaedics (HTO) through clinical and didactic training, as well as mentoring and research advising. Their experiences have varied in many ways, yet nearly all returned volunteers have expressed appreciation for the kindness, intelligence and dedication of Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Chung – an onsite coordinator for the project.
“There are really not enough words to describe how impressive an individual (Dr. Chung) is. Very few physicians I have ever met are as dedicated to their patients. Not only is Dr. Chung an excellent anesthesiologist, but he has really attempted to improve the infrastructure at his hospital in order to better serve his community,” wrote Neil Hanson, MD, after his assignment at HTO in 2010.
Dr. Chung, who has served as the onsite coordinator for HVO’s anesthesia training project at HTO since its inception, is known among volunteers for his warm and welcoming presence, as well as his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty – whether that means personally greeting a new volunteer at the airport or designing and ordering equipment for the hospital.
“Improvement is a slow process anywhere but after almost 20 years of returning to the same site I am convinced that HVO makes a difference — especially if you have someone like Dr. Chung to continue the education in between visits,” wrote long-time volunteer Lena Dohlman-Gerhart, MD, MPH, upon returning from a recent assignment.
Rohan Jain, MD, who traveled to Ho Chi Minh City as a SEA-HVO Fellow in 2015, heard about Dr. Chung’s exceptional teaching skills first-hand from hospital staff. He reported to HVO:
We were told that five years ago, the first HVO volunteers began to introduce ultrasound guided blocks. Most of the providers said they were initially quite intimidated by the technology and continued to practice paresthesia technique, but Dr. Chung insisted on buying HTO its own ultrasound and with each group of HVO volunteers they became less intimidated and more comfortable with the ultrasound…Now, the staff efficiently and skillfully uses ultrasound for axillary, infraclavicular and femoral nerve blocks without need for supervision or guidance. One anesthesiologist may perform 8-10 ultrasound guided blocks in a single day!”
In addition to reinforcing the teachings of HVO volunteers, Dr. Chung, who specialized in anesthesiology and intensive care at the Faculty of Medicine in Ho Chi Minh City, and went on to pursue post-graduate studies in France, still enjoys learning from his HVO colleagues.
“Without any sense of ego, Dr. Chung welcomes instruction from anyone in the world so that his department can benefit from new concepts and new ideas,” reported Dr. Hanson.
“As head of the department, Dr. Chung often takes the lead in learning new skills first, frequently through self-teaching, before passing along his knowledge to his colleagues,” agreed 2014 SEA-HVO Fellow Cindy Hwang, MD.
Not only has Dr. Chung left an indelible imprint on the lives of his patients and fellow HTO staff, he has done so on many HVO volunteers, who continue to be inspired by this dedicated health worker long after they return home from their assignments. In the words of Dr. Hwang, “As the anesthesia colleague who accompanied me on this trip said best, ‘Dr. Chung makes you want to be a better doctor.’ I would go beyond that to say that he simply makes you want to be a better person altogether.”