Overseas Outreach Project to Vietnam

OSV surgeon Geoffrey Tymms volunteered for the 2017 AOFAS Outreach Project to Vietnam, working side-by-side with Vietnamese orthopaedic surgeons -- teaching, seeing patients in the clinics, and performing surgery. The project provides surgical care and education in provinces in northern Vietnam and in Hanoi.

Excerpt from the 2017 Summer InStride AOFAS Newseletter regarding the Outreach Project to Vietnam:

AOFAS volunteers returned to Vietnam for the 16th year to care for children and adults with lower extremity deformities and disabilities. Over the course of four weeks, volunteers traveled to hospitals and rehab centers in Yen Bai, Ba Vi, Vinh, and Hanoi treating patients and working with local orthopaedic surgeons.

This year’s group evaluated 240 patients in clinics and performed surgery on 91, all at no cost to the patients. Since the first AOFAS Overseas Outreach Project to Vietnam in 2002, almost 1,400 patients have benefited from surgery performed by AOFAS volunteers, and more than 3,200 patients have been seen in the clinics. Most patients are from impoverished areas and lack access to care; others are unable to afford advanced medical services.

“This type of mission really tests you and makes you realize how lucky we are in our first-world situations,” said volunteer surgeon Geoffrey M. Tymms, MBBS, of Melbourne, Australia. “It is a privilege to be able to help people who would otherwise get limited or no care for their problems.”

Patients with untreated congenital deformities are common in the Vietnamese clinics, and they have a range of challenging conditions.

The knowledge and care that AOFAS volunteers offer is critical for these underserved populations as many foot and ankle treatments used in the US are not available in Vietnam.

Michael B. Strauss, MD, of Long Beach, California, said “I was able to manage horrendous, neglected club foot deformities by using external fixators that I brought with me — something apparently never done before in Vietnam with club feet. It was a pediatric extension of the type of procedures I do in the US for diabetic adult end-stage Charcot arthropathy deformities.”

The AOFAS surgeons volunteered their time and paid for their own travel to Vietnam. In-country expenses were supported by the Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Foundation with charitable donations from individuals and industry. This was the 16th annual project sponsored by the AOFAS and its partner organization, Mobility Outreach International (MOI).

During the four-week project, which ended in mid-June, AOFAS members worked at orthopaedic rehab centers and engaged with residents. In addition to Drs. Tymms and Strauss, volunteer surgeons included Lorenzo Gamez, MD, of East Setauket, New York; Kathleen A. McHale, MD, of Alexandria, Virginia; Naomi N. Shields, MD, of Wichita, Kansas; Altug Tanriover, MD, of Ankara, Turkey; Ruth L. Thomas, MD, of Little Rock, Arkansas; and Isabella V. van Dalen, MD, PhD, of the Netherlands. Education is an important part of the outreach project. In collaboration with MOI, the Vietnam Ministry of Health, and Viet Duc University Hospital, the AOFAS co-sponsored the annual conference on Surgery of the Lower Extremity on June 3 in Hanoi. The conference utilized simultaneous translation and was attended by 170 Vietnamese orthopaedic surgeons. The program included presentations by Drs. McHale, Shields, Strauss, Tanriover, and van Dalen.

Since 2002, 54 AOFAS members have participated in the project.

“My favorite part of this mission is working with the other AOFAS surgeons,” said Dr. Thomas. “We learn from each other. Many of these patients have deformities and issues we do not see in America. Discussion among ourselves allows us to clearly see the advantages and disadvantages of the approaches we may take.”

Dr. McHale added, “I thought that I would never again feel the professional camaraderie one has in the military, but this trip was just like it. One example of that was a case of a girl with congenital dislocated patella and valgus knees that I worked on with Altug [Tanriover]. It was a cooperative effort on a difficult problem. It looked beautiful at the end of the case.”


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