Scholarships for health sciences students from the University of Sydney

Richard Blennerhassett et al

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2010 Reflections from health sciences students


Robyn Weymer

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Robyn Weymer (second from right)

"…no amount of information available could have prepared me for how amazing this country is, nor relate the incredible, eye-opening experiences I was to have."

After receiving news that I was selected to be awarded a Hoc Mai scholarship for a placement in Vietnam, I was immediately filled with excitement about the experience which lay ahead. I formulated learning goals which I hoped to achieve, and read up on the city and hospitals in which we were going to live and work for four weeks. I memorised a few Vietnamese phrases, sampled some different Vietnamese foods, and researched their culture, history, government, and health care system. Eventually, I departed Sydney feeling well prepared and confident. Upon my arrival in Vietnam however, I quickly learned no amount of information available could have prepared me for how amazing this country is, nor relate the incredible, eye-opening experiences I was to have.


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Lucy Bath

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Lucy bath (on the right)

There is so much to reflect upon when returning home from a trip such as the one we have experienced in Vietnam.

Before I left, I was interested to know how much was known about Speech Pathology in Vietnam or if there was a recognised need for it. In terms of knowing the scope of practice for speech pathology, in the first week it was difficult for Dr Duong to find areas at Bach Mai hospital other than the rehabilitation (consisting of physiotherapy) for us to work in. We were keen to see stroke patients, throat and neck cancer patients, cleft palate surgery and anything related to our field, but it seemed that what the Vietnamese thought speech pathologists did, was very limited. When speaking to some Vietnamese medical students about speech pathology and its place in healthcare, they were interested to learn that it was a separate degree to medicine in Australia. They found it hard to believe that we covered all of the areas that we do.

We began in The University Hospital speech department which was a small corner of a larger room, in which Miss Ly taught mostly very young children communicative intentions such as requesting and corrected articulation problems such as lisping. She had the same patients every day for an hour and although the activities and goals were basic, I learnt a lot from watching her work with these young children. She had endless amounts of patience, she worked so hard on the same things everyday and yet she never tired or gave up when the children did. The quality of her interactions with the children was something that I've taken home with me. Miss Ly had a big cupboard of toys to use with the children yet each day she took out the same ones and repeated the same activities but kept her focus on the goal of each exercise. It made me reflect on how we interact with children in Australia. So often we go overboard, thinking children need all manner of stimulation and excitement when really it’s about human interaction, stimulation of the senses and making sure our own energy is endless.]]

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Sam Adam Klippan

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As the sole physiotherapist travelling to Hanoi as a recipient of the HocMai scholarship I was filled with a nervous excitement as my final university examinations passed and my departure day approached. Did I have the necessary clinical skills? Would I be able to manage with the language barrier? Would I be able to satisfy my learning goals?

Thankfully I learnt very quickly that this nervousness was unwarranted. Hanoi had me under her spell immediately. We met the very welcoming Professor Duong after arriving and we were all assigned to our respective hospitals and areas of interest. I spent my time at Bach Mai hospital, which is one of the largest hospitals in Vietnam. I was warmly welcomed by the spinal rehabilitation unit and I struggled to take in the many new (and incredibly difficult to pronounce) names. Within the first few days I quickly gained a valuable insight into the Vietnamese character and healthcare system. Where they lacked in resources they made it up in enthusiasm, inventiveness, perseverance, generosity, a willingness to learn and a hard working ‘can do’ attitude. I was astounded to learn that almost all of the local staff that I met worked 7 days a week, year round!


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2009 Reflections from health sciences students


Richard Blennerhassett

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While sitting in the Hanoi international airport I have a few spare moments to reflect on the Học Mãi experience, some time to revisit my learning objectives prior to arrival here and an endless moment to ponder how I can ever put this experience into words. Here goes.

My background as a physiotherapy graduate, and a practising physiotherapist in a Sydney hospital, tempers my perception of the past month, and did influence my learning goals before arriving. Initially I was keen to see respiratory medicine and its practice from the perspective of Vietnamese doctors, nurses and obviously physiotherapists as well. I was keen to see signs and symptoms of conditions usually reserved for textbooks in Australia.

At our first meeting with Professor Duong he asked us what it was that we would like to see while we were in Vietnam. I experienced what could only be described as an instantaneous change of heart. I told him I would love to spend time in the department of Pathology at Benh Vien Bach Mai.
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Reports to come.

2008 Reflections from health sciences students

Reports to come.