Thursday, August 14, 2008

An encouraging model

After our weekend in Ha Long Bay, Doannie and I joined up with the VCHAP group (Vietnam CDC Harvard AIDS Partnership) in Hai Phong. This is the third largest city in Vietnam and a large port city. Unfortunately, it has Vietnam's fastest growing HIV population due to a high rate of IV drug use and opium trafficking. The Ha Noi group comes out once a month for a week to do hands on training with the new HIV doctors in the province and to offer consultative services on difficult cases in the afternoon. This is done by the dynamic duo of Dr Huong, an MD/PhD from Hai Phong and a total firecracker, and Dr Marcelo, an HIV specialist from Argentina and a total wisecracker. Together they are a total riot.

We saw a very encouraging model in Hai Phong, something we had yet to encounter in our 5 prior weeks of working in Vietnam. The new doctors practiced taking a history and performing a physical exam in front of Drs Huong and Marcelo, who then provided direct feedback and filled in the gaps by asking additional questions and doing additional exam maneuvers. In the US medical education system this is known as precepting and in the European system as mentoring. It was wonderful to see in contrast to either the complete lack of supervision of junior doctors or the omnipotent decree of senior doctors with the junior doctors expected to learn by observation alone. This of course requires buy-in from the doctors-in-training, who have to be open to criticism and critique, and we learned that the enthusiasm of the Hai Phong trainees is as of yet unmatched in other provinces where VCHAP works.

We also got to spend some time in a thoroughly un-touristy town, which was a unique experience in its own right. We visited one of Vietnam's only microbreweries, where the choices were either "black beer" or "yellow beer" and ngo-ing was in full force. We encountered a Vietnamese break dancing group and a park full of people doing what can only be described as calisthenics. Check out this particular routine for a good laugh:

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