POTSDAM — Thirteen Clarkson University pre-health science students completed two weeks of medical observation and volunteer help at a hospital in Vietnam, in June.
The students, all members of Clarkson’s Doctors Without Borders Club, which organized the trip, donated their time at Thng Nht Hospital.
Clarkson’s Doctors without Borders, which has been traveling since 2012 to destinations like South America and Central America, is not an affiliate of the international organization. It is a local club, focused on delivering healthcare to low income or underserved people, both internationally and nationally.
“We volunteer during the summer for two weeks at various clinics and hospitals,” Victoria Olsen ‘19, a biomolecular science major from Watertown said in a press release from the college. “We learn about how medicine is practiced and sometimes get hands-on opportunities to gain experience for our professional fields.”
“When we do clinical work, we try to help underserved communities,” Matthew Kane ‘20, a biology major from North Syracuse said. “It’s also a good step for pre-med students, pre-PA, pre-dental or pre-PT to get their foot into the water a little earlier than you can in the United States. You can take that knowledge and build on it here as a professional in the U.S.”
Thng Nht is a large public hospital in Ho Chi Minh City that was built about 1975, just before the fall of South Vietnam.
“This is the first trip outside of Latin America for the group, which learns about healthcare in the developing world and underserved areas in the U.S.,” Professor and Chair of Biology Tom Langen, who accompanied the students abroad said. “They turn that into an experience in which they can learn about medical care in contexts that they can bring back into their own future practice.”
In Vietnam, the Clarkson volunteers worked in the emergency room, the operating room, urology, neurology, rehabilitation, gastro-intestinal, trauma, and traditional medicine (acupuncture and herbal medicine).
“It was mainly observational, this year, but some of the students also did some hands-on,” Langen said. “For example, rehabilitation students gave ultrasonic massages and some students learned about traditional medicine – herbal medicines and acupuncture — and how to remove acupuncture pins and leads.”
The students were divided up into pairs and assigned to different areas of the hospital. Each student also had an opportunity to be in the operating room for at least one day.
“We would go into the hospital each day from around 8 a.m. to about 3 p.m. and choose a department,” said Renee Levy ‘19, a biology and psychology double major from Buffalo. “It was a huge learning experience for us. We would try and help out wherever we could. A lot of times I would go in the mornings to the cardiothoracic surgical department and then in the afternoons I would go down to the physical therapy and rehabilitation unit.”
Some of the students already had medical experience due to their work on the rescue squad, in the emergency room, or in other clinical environments. They were familiar with a number of procedures and could interact with doctors about differences between their experience in the U.S. and at the Vietnamese hospital.
The students say they hope to take the lessons they’ve learned in Vietnam and other countries and apply them in their future careers.
The trip was completely student-organized and student-led.
In their downtime, the group had some time for recreation. They traveled to Phu Quc island, a Vietnamese island off of Cambodia known as “Paradise Island,” where they went coral-reef snorkeling. They also visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, which were part of the tunnel system that the Viet Cong developed during the Vietnam War for defense
Also traveling with DWB to Vietnam were Emma Buonanno ‘20, biology, Wolcott, Vt.; Aiden Cahill ‘21, chemistry, Clairmont, N.H.; Kate Derouchie ‘20, psychology, Massena; Katherine Duba ‘21, biology, Harwinton, Conn.; Brandon Formoza ‘22, biology, Baldwinsville; Belisena Hall ‘20, psychology, Gouverneur; Olivia Marshall ‘21, chemical engineering, Munnsville; Galen Oey-Langen ‘22, biomolecular science, Canton, N.Y.; Kaitlin Okun ‘20, biology, Amherst; and Isabelle Steiner ‘21, chemical engineering, Youngstown.