From Everett, WA To Treating Patients in Rural Vietnam

Dr. Randall Franke of U.S. HealthWorks Medical Group in Everett, WA, recently had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam to provide medical services to the poor. Below is an account of his trip.

'SE Asia' photo (c) 2009, Rolling Okie - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Providing medical attention on a two-week journey into rural Vietnam communities has forever changed my life.

On August 25, the journey began for me and two other physicians along with nurses, dentists and pharmacists. Our medical group also consisted of 30 pre-med, pre-nursing, and pre-pharmaceutical students from the University of Washington; many of whom acted as translators. Also making the trip was my son, Alex, a high school senior. Though missing his first week of school, I knew Alex would benefit from this experience as much as I would.

The two weeks were like nothing any of us had ever experienced. My patient visits were not at my modern U.S. HealthWorks medical center in Everett, WA, but rather in spartan, temporary health clinics that we set up in rural areas both in the north and south.

In preparation for our journey to visit and treat patients in Vietnam, our team had trained weekly for several months to prepare for our trip. Despite the training, it still didn’t totally prepare us for our Vietnam experience.

Our days in Vietnam began in the early morning. We would board a bus at 5 or 6 a.m. and travel 60 miles or more in a very time-consuming drive that typically lasted two to three hours before we reached the people in these outlining areas. Once we reached our destination, set up would take an hour most mornings. We would begin seeing patients between 8-9 a.m. and wouldn’t stop providing medical assistance until early evening.

As we set up our mobile clinics each day, hundreds of Vietnamese people would be lined up eagerly waiting to receive medical attention. The large daily crowds were skillfully managed by our students many of whom were Vietnamese Americans. Patients would be registered, and their vitals signs would be taken by our students.

After the preliminary work was completed, the next step was being seen by one of the three physicians. Once a patient had seen a doctor, they were directed to another part of the mobile clinic for medications, and in some cases, additional treatment including dental care.

Approximately 65 percent of the patients that we saw were senior citizens. Their health issues included chronic hypertension, vision problems, skin conditions and other medical conditions that had gone untreated due to the lack of healthcare access.

In our two-week span, we set up eight mobile clinics and saw an estimated 1,600 patients. It was a heavy work load each day, but providing healthcare to these long lines of patients was well worth it. We were able to provide much-needed medical attention to people who unfortunately don’t have access to regular healthcare. We also had the opportunity to meet with students from Hanoi Medical University. Everyone was extremely friendly.

It was an incredible learning opportunity for all of us and one I would like to repeat. I’m eager to return again and hopefully offer an increasing scope of services to a very appreciative group of patients.

~Dr. Randall Franke, U.S. HealthWorks Medical Group

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