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Transformative Partnerships: How Education Changes Lives

For Betty Beard, what started as short-term volunteer assignment turned into a long-term commitment serving as the project director for HVO’s nursing project in Hai Duong, Vietnam. For the last five years, she has coordinated activities and mentored nurses at Hai Duong Medical and Technical University (HMTU), working with partners to identify the greatest needs and collaborate on how to address them. During the pandemic, a friend from HMTU connected Dr. Beard with a colleague at Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy (HUMP) who was requesting assistance setting up a training project for their institution’s nurses. Dr. Beard worked with faculty at HUMP to set up virtual training for their nurses. She found, vetted, and coordinated new volunteers to provide education using Zoom and Facetime. By 2022, she had an army of volunteers from around the country working on these virtual trainings, soliciting topics from partners and matching them with volunteers with relevant expertise. Each online lecture was attended by dozens of HUMP staff ready to learn.  

“HVO’s main job is to answer the call of what others want from us. In other words, we don’t tell them what to do. We ask them what they would like from us, and that’s why I love [HVO] so much,” says Dr. Beard. The project can attribute much success to Dr. Beard’s careful listening to her colleagues about what they wanted and needed. During this time, she became close to one colleague in particular, a young nurse named Phung Van Du, for whom she served as a mentor. It became apparent that what he needed was a PhD to further his career, but he worried that, as a young husband and father, it would be prohibitive to spend the time and money necessary to complete his studies in a foreign country – there were no available programs near his home in Hai Duong.  

“Du asked me out for breakfast, and it was the first time I’d been one of those motorbikes. He wanted me to have pho and took me to an out of the way place that had the best pho in the city. He just wanted to chit chat and get to know me. And he really wanted some career advice. He knew he needed a PhD, and the only place those folks can go is really Australia or Taiwan. And Taiwan offered him a scholarship.” It was hard for Dr. Phung to leave his family for two years, but he knew that in the long term it was what was best for his family. Dr. Beard provided him with references and helped him with the application processes for the program and scholarship money.   

Now, with his new degree, Dr. Phung is a full-time lecturer at Hai Duong Medical Technical University with job security. “The pursuit of my PhD has been transformative,” he says. “It has not only broadened my understanding of nursing and healthcare but also opened doors to leadership opportunities within my department. This advanced education has allowed me to inspire and encourage my colleagues to pursue higher education and strive for excellence in healthcare. Consequently, the impact of my PhD journey extends beyond my personal growth, influencing the department in which I work, as we collectively endeavor to provide higher quality healthcare services.” 

Dr. Beard is proud of Dr. Phung and his journey and happy for the opportunity to have built so many relationships through her time as an HVO volunteer and project director. “Du will do very well in his work. He’s motivated, caring, and loves his students. The building of relationships that we have, the one common denominator in all the stories you’re going to hear, are these relationships we have with each other overseas.”  

Dr. Du shared these words with us: “In closing, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for the partnership with HVO and the invaluable support and expertise provided by volunteers like Betty Beard. Their contributions have had a lasting, positive impact on my career and the department as a whole, contributing to the enhancement of health care services. I look forward to continuing my journey in health care, enriched by the knowledge and experiences gained through this association.” 

HVO thanks Dr. Du and Dr. Beard for sharing their story with us. We too believe that the heart of HVO and the key to our mission are the relationships we form with each other across the seas along with our commitment to partnership and mutual respect. Thank you for your part in advancing health care for all! 

Dr. Betty Beard wrote an article for HVO’s Volunteer Connection in 2020 on the Year of the Nurse and Midwife: https://hvousa-org-wpom.nyc3.cdn.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/HVO-VConn-Summer-2020.pdf