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WCM-Q students visit Vietnam to learn about global health issues

The WCM-Q students spent 12 days in Vietnam learning about key issues in global health.
The WCM-Q students spent 12 days in Vietnam learning about key issues in global health.

Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) students visited Vietnam to learn about the challenges of providing healthcare in a lower middle-income country, explore the unique Vietnamese culture and develop an understanding of the ethics related to short-term global health experiences.  

During the 12-day global health experiential trip to Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s capital, the six first-year pre-medical students worked as volunteers at The Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital, observed basic health checks and physiotherapy sessions being conducted by local physicians, and learned about common health issues and treatments in Vietnam. The students also spent time working with special needs children in a daycare center and had the opportunity to meet many local people and learn about Vietnam’s culture, history and language.

During the visit to Vietnam the WCM-Q students were allowed to carry out basic medical duties under supervision.

The program, implemented by the Institute for Population Health at WCM-Q, is designed to give students a chance to see first-hand how healthcare is delivered in a different part of the world, helping them gain an appreciation of global citizenship and develop their ability to provide care across cultural and linguistic boundaries.

For student Ateeque Mohamed Ali, the trip was transformative and inspiring. He said: “From working with the patients and the special needs children, I felt I could truly relate to them. Eventually, I stopped seeing the cultural barriers between us. Moreover, seeing how the hospital staff, despite the low-resource setting, gave every patient their due rights when it came to treatment, drove home the point that medical care is a right and not a privilege.” 

In the Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital, the students observed physicians, nurses and allied healthcare practitioners cleaning and dressing wounds, repairing fractured bones in the operating theater, and using massage, acupuncture and other physiotherapy techniques to relieve pain. They also observed basic healthcare duties like mixing injectable medicines and taking blood pressure measurements, all under the supervision of trained professionals. At the daycare center, the students worked closely with children with cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and other neuromuscular disorders, keeping the children entertained with games and songs and helping the local staff with engaging the children in specific movement exercises, customized learning programs and their mealtimes.

Although Vietnam’s economy has grown rapidly in recent years, its GDP per capita is less than US$2,500 and accessing healthcare is difficult for many people. The students learned about key healthcare challenges facing the country, which include a high incidence of motorcycle accidents, stroke and cardiovascular diseases. They also took Vietnamese language classes, learned about the history of the US-Vietnam War and its legacy, visited a street market, explored Vietnamese cuisine during a food tour and were taught to cook classic Vietnamese recipes.

The program is directed by Dr. Sohaila Cheema, director of WCM-Q’s Institute for Population Health (IPH), who accompanied the students on the trip, along with Dr. Amit Abraham, instructor of healthcare policy and research.

Dr. Cheema said: “The visit to Vietnam gives the students an opportunity to see how healthcare works in a different part of the world, helps them transcend cultural barriers and inspires them to reflect on their future roles as medical professionals in a global context. I was truly impressed by their dedication, and the humility with which they conducted themselves.”

WCM-Q’s Dr. Amit Abraham (rear left) and Dr. Sohaila Cheema (rear right) accompanied students (front row, from left to right) Ahamed Lazim Vattoth, Syed Muhammed Saad Jalil, Ateeque Mohamed Ali, Ammar Ahmed Khan, Farheen Ahmed and Manaal Siddiqui on the global learning experience to Vietnam.