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OPERATION Vietnam:bringing hope and happiness

Think local

For the past 20 years, groundbreaking surgical teaching practices from a dedicated group of North Shore doctors have changed the lives of thousands of people in Vietnam.

Supported by Mosman Rotary and other sponsors including the Australian Hand Surgery Society, these local doctors have trained hundreds of Vietnamese orthopedic surgeons, bringing optimism and hope to their patients.

During the team's most recent visit in November last year, more than 80 local surgeons were instructed in teaching clinics at the Hue Central Hospital in Vietnam.

The Australian surgeons included doctors Peter Scougall, Tim Heath, Richard Lawson, Tim Peitz and Damian Ryan. Hand therapist Rosemary Prosser and Nurse Graham Hextell also both joined the team.

"I love teaching, as do all the volunteers who help with this program. The Vietnamese orthopedic surgeons we teach are so enthusiastic," Dr Scougall tells North Shore Living.

"From my experience, the Vietnamese doctors are born surgeons. They are smart, practical and good with their hands and they are caring and compassionate. We teach them one thing and soon enough, they will be showing us a better way," he smiles.Dr Scougall says teaching in Vietnam has a ripple effect.

"It is a lot of responsibility - if we teach them something right, it will be repeated many times. But the converse is also true. So we have to get it right, with principles that are not lost or confused in translation."

The training program was started in the mid 1990s by Mosman Rotarian and Associate Professor Bruce Connolly.

Dr Scougall says at the time, the Rotarians saw the opportunity to start the project as they realised the need for hand surgery training.

The Australians say Vietnam has changed dramatically since they first started going, with the surgical services improving over time.

In addition to the hand surgeon program, the club also works with Open Heart International to provide ongoing cardiac training in both Myanmar and Cambodia.

The success of the Vietnamese hand surgery project is primarily due to the enthusiasm of the local surgeons, says Dr Scougall.

"It works because they want us there and because they want to build on what they have. We all work very hard during the trips, but they are so friendly with us that it feels like a holiday," he smiles.


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