Scholarships for 2nd year medical students from the University of Sydney

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2011 Scholarships for 2nd year medical students

Costa Boyages, Michelle Emerson, and Ashleigh Smith report


We received a warm reception into the Bach Mai hospital Obstetrics and Gynaecology department, perhaps only rivalled by the cosy incubators which met Viet Namese newborns! Our Viet Namese mentors (some of them previous or prospective Hoc Mai fellows) showed great patience and attention to our learning; and generosity with their time.

Our experience on the wards was educational and galvanising. We witnessed our first vaginal and Caesarian deliveries. We quickly began to appreciate the real world elements of good peri-natal care: manual examination to measure dilatation of the cervix, Bishop Scoring to assess whether induction of labour is necessary, Leopold manoeuvres to determine foetal positioning, episiotomy technique and delivery method including active management of the third stage to reduce post-partum haemorrhage.

We also had the privilege of scrubbing in for our first Caesarian deliveries, wielding suction, retractor and surgical instruments under the watchful and helpful eyes of Viet Namese supervisors. We attended outpatient clinics and ward rounds where we saw ante-natal abdominal and transvaginal ultrasound imaging and post-natal follow up with our supervisor helpfully relating history and findings.

There were differences between the Australian and Viet Namese approaches, specifically regarding the role of pain relief, the place of family members in the delivery room and the resourcing available to doctors. In all, the experience was hugely instructive for us from a medical and cultural perspective and we were able to establish very close linkages with Viet Namese counterparts that we will no doubt maintain and further develop throughout the rest of our career.

2010 Scholarships for 2nd year medical students

David Leon report


Inserting a screw into the maxilla in order to internally fixate a fracture using a plate under the supervision of Dr Giang.

My four weeks were spent in the plastic and reconstructive surgery department with two of my colleagues (Louise and Elle). However, our learning wasn’t just contained to the hospital. As part of the greater Hoc-Mai delegation of 14 students from medicine and allied health (including nurses, physiotherapists and speech pathologists), we travelled to various parts of northern Viet Nam to discover more of the culture and the people of this country that has such an amazing history.

From the beginning the head of the plastics department, Dr Ha, was friendly and keen to get us involved in learning, assisting and teaching with him and his team. They taught us many valuable skills during our time. One such example was a head to toe screening examination that would help to detect any dangerous conditions that might not be obvious in a post trauma setting. Another was a systematic method to approaching a clinical presentation, in particular for the case of mass lesions and vascular malformations of which we saw quite a number. In this regard we saw various different types of cancerous lesions as well as abscesses and benign lesions as well as seeing arteriovenous malformations, pure venous malformations and haemangiomas.


Lara Monaghan report


Dr Giap, Sam Klippan, Dr Phuong (Học Mãi Fellow 2009) & Lara Monaghan

Last December I had the privilege of travelling to Hanoi as part of the Hoc Mai scholarship program. I spent the month in the Respiratory department of Bach Mai hospital.

I was initially overwhelmed by the size of the hospital; it seemed more like a town than a hospital. Having got lost as soon as we arrived at the hospital I was anxious about finding my feet in such a huge, unfamiliar environment. I was therefore grateful when a pharmacist called Hai who had met a couple of us at a barbecue in Sydney last year spotted us looking lost and came over to help us. She ended up taking us to meet our supervisor, then on a tour around the hospital. Such friendliness was characteristic of all the Vietnamese people we worked with.


Andrew Murphy report


Andrew and Dr Hong in Viet Duc Emergency Department

For the duration of my placement in Vietnam I spent my time in the Viet Duc Emergency Department (ED). This was my first preference for where I wanted to spend my time, and both the hospital and Dr Duong were very helpful in ensuring I was able to be placed there.

When applying for the Hoc Mai scholarship, I had several learning goals that I wanted to fulfil during my time in Vietnam. All of my learning goals were based around how the ED is run in Vietnam. Specifically:

  • How patients are triaged, and time management associated with this.
  • How major trauma is managed.
  • How spinal injuries are managed.


Reflections of Elle Vandervord

The four week placement that I undertook at Viet Duc Hospital over the summer holidays was a greatly enriching experience. I was attached to the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery along with two other second year students. The placement offered innumerable opportunities for learning, not only about plastic surgery and the Vietnamese hospital system but also about the Vietnamese culture and way of life.

During the placement I gained insight into the scope of plastic surgery practiced in Vietnam. Arriving at 8am each morning, we were able to sit in on daily clinics and observe patient consultations. We were exposed to many different diseases that we had not seen before, including benign symmetric lipomatosis, neurofibromatosis, vascular malformations and advanced tumours of the head and neck region. With the assistance of the surgeons who translated for us, we were able to take histories and examine patients in clinics and on the ward and in doing so gained a good understanding of the presenting signs and symptoms and natural history of these diseases. We also learnt to distinguish between different types of head and neck tumours on examination, for example the features which clinically differentiate benign and malignant tumours and the different types of vascular malformations.


Marianne Dowsett, Mark Er, Arabella Lindsay Walker

On the morning of our first day in Hanoi, Dr Duong and Dr An introduced us to Viet Duc Hospital and our clinical supervisors. Over the next month, we witnessed the working intricacies of Viet Duc Hospital and the ways in which life at the hospital reflected many of the virtuous qualities of Vietnamese culture. For instance, at first glance Viet Duc appeared over-crowded with patients, however, we soon learnt that many of these people were family members there to comfort and support their loved-ones - highlighting for us the strong family values held by many Vietnamese people. Our supervisors introduced us to both the hospital and HaNoi. In theatre and on the wards they showed great diligence, spirit and concern for their patients - qualities that we aspire to match in our future careers. In theatre our supervisors gave us the opportunity to scrub-in, assist and practice skills such as suturing. We were shown interesting diseases and presentations that would be a rarity in Australian hospitals. Outside on the streets of HaNoi, over memorable conversations, we were introduced to Vietnamese food and coffee. Overall, our experiences at the hospital were invaluable and we are so very thankful to be given such an opportunity. Continued

2009 Scholarships for 2nd year medical students - Northern Clinical School

Reflections of Marianne Dowsett


Last summer I was one of the very fortunate students to be selected for the Hoc Mai Scholarship to Vietnam. I worked at Viet Duc Hospital in Hanoi with the Plastic Surgery team under Dr Ha for the four weeks, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I found the first day of hospital very overwhelming; learning how to communicate with basic English and hand gestures, finding my way around and working out where I fitted into the team, were what I remember most. However I quickly found my place and started enjoying the routine of ward work and surgeries. Dr Ha was a fantastic supervisor and encouraged me to participate in examination on both the ward and in clinic, and whenever he had a spare moment he would teach me an aspect of plastic surgery. The rest of the team was incredibly welcoming and would invite me to assist in surgery and teach me skills such as suturing and drilling.


Report on Học Mãi Scholarship Experience by Lauren Hammer

The Học Mãi scholarship to Viêt Nam was an invaluable learning experience for me. I feel I have gained a wealth of new knowledge and understanding and achieved all of my objectives for the placement and more. As well as fantastic medical teaching, I have had insight to circumstances that challenged my thoughts on health equity, medical ethics and responsibility. These experiences have shed new light on my view of patient care and will make me a better doctor. I was provided with ample opportunity to gain surgical experience in Việt Đức hospital. This experience has opened my eyes to new specialties that I thoroughly enjoyed. At Việt Đức hospital, I also saw the traumatic outcome of Viêt Nam’s primary public health problem; motorbike accidents. This allowed me to have the opportunity to address one of my main objectives of the scholarship; to explore my interest in surgery and public health.


Hoc Mai placement report, December 2009 - Viet Duc Surgical Hospital, Ha Noi. By Edwin Ho

I was fortunate to be a member of the Hoc Mai placement at Viet Duc Surgical Hospital in Ha Noi, Viet Nam, which took place in December 2009. This was a medical and cultural learning experience in the developing world that has left an incredible impression on our budding professional careers. The resilience, passion and generosity of the Vietnamese people are qualities that will inspire my personal journey for lifelong learning and contribution in the global community. So, our placement was true to the meaning of “Hoc Mai” – Forever Learning.

On our first day at Viet Duc Hospital, we realized that this was going to be different to any hospitals in Sydney in most ways. It looked different; crowded, busy, chaotic, and some equipment that would be considered outdated at home. It sounded different; we had to pick up some Vietnamese phrases quickly. It even tasted different; the Vietnamese like their coffee very strong, but the sweet condensed milk took away some of that bite! Our clinical supervisors and enthusiastic medical students from Hanoi Medical University worked hard to welcome and orientate us to their domain, despite their busy schedules.


2008 2nd year medical students medical students from University of Sydney

Kate Larkins, Renee Burton, Chris Brunsdon, Dr Nguyen Huu Tu, Chloe Wilcox, Susanna Lam

Five students (Kate Larkins, Renee Burton, Chris Brunsdon, Chloe Wilcox, Susanna Lam) undertook their Học Mãi student scholarship for clinical placement in HaNoi from 29 November to 26 December, 2008.

The students are seen here with Dr Nguyen Huu Tu (a Học Mãi fellow from 2007 and a strong supporter of the Học Mãi Foundation).

Học Mãi second year student report:

"They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived…."

Five fortunate second year medical students realised this was just as true for the hospitals of HaNoi as it was for Thomas Fowler’s Viêt Nam in the film The Quiet American. We spent four weeks in HaNoi as part of the Học Mãi Scholarship program. This experience introduced us to an incredible culture, a dedicated and committed people and of course offered a unique insight into medicine in a developing world.

2007 2nd year medical students from University of Sydney

Medical Students at Viet Duc Hospital in Hanoi 2007

Scholarship recipients

For each of us the Vietnam experience had its different highlights. From becoming budding neurosurgeons, to colorectal surgeons, nephrologists, obstetricians, pediatricians and emergency medicine doctors, each of us were touched by the doctors that took time out of their days to teach and inspire us. Through their eyes we were able to learn about health care in Vietnam; to engage in discussions about diagnosis, management and the intricacies of the Vietnamese health care system. Continued...