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

WCM-Q StudentsDuring the 12-day trip to Ho Chi Minh City, six first-year pre-medical students worked as volunteers at the Orthopaedic 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 centre, had the opportunity to meet many local people and learn about Vietnam’s unique culture, history and language.

The programme, 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 different parts 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 has been transformative and inspiring.

From working with patients and the special needs children, I felt I could truly relate to them. Eventually, I stopped seeing the cultural barriers between us; I didn’t see them as Vietnamese people, but just people. 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.’

During their visit to the Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Hospital, the students observed physicians, nurses and allied healthcare practitioners cleaning and dressing wounds, repairing fractured bones in the operating theatre, and using massage, acupuncture and other physiotherapy techniques to relieve pain.

They also observed basic healthcare duties – mixing injectable medicines and taking blood pressure measurements – under the supervision of trained professionals. At the daycare centre, the students worked closely with children afflicted with cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and other neuromuscular disorders. They kept the children entertained with games and songs and helped the local staff engage them in specific movement exercises and customised learning programmes.

Although Vietnam’s economy has grown rapidly in recent years, its GDP per capita is still less than US$2,500. Accessing healthcare remains difficult for many people.

The students also learned about key healthcare challenges facing the country, took Vietnamese language classes, learned about the history of the US-Vietnam War and its legacy, visited a street market, explored Vietnamese cuisine and were taught to cook classic Vietnamese recipes.

According to Dr Sohaila Cheema, Director of WCM-Q Institute for Population Health (IPH), who accompanied the students on the trip, the visit to Vietnam gave the students an opportunity to see how healthcare works in a different part of the world.

For updates and more information about WCM-Q, visit their website at qatar-weill.cornell.edu.