Thursday, May 30, 2013

Angel sent unexpectedly

As we returned to our hotel after our first day at clinic, which was a long, trying, and emotional day, my mind was far from peace. After experiencing the medical emergency, treating nearly 100 patients, and doing all that in 100 degree heat, I was sure I needed something to refocus my positive energy. Unexpectedly, I had to travel to a near by medical supply store to restock some glucose test strips. The owners of the store were eating their dinner not far from the front counter. After purchasing the items, I looked down and saw this Angel at my feet. Who could resist leaning over and looking at her. The first and only word to come out of her mouth was "Hello"! Responding to her with "Chao em", she lifted her hand, and blew me a the sweetest most loving kiss possible. Being overcome with joy, love and peace, I opened my arms for a hug and she didn't hesitate! You know, you are sent signs, just at the time you need them most. I certainly needed her, and I thank whoever was looking upon me and sensed it!!!!! Chuc Ngu Ngon little Angel and Cam on em for making me feel THIS way!!!

Emergency Situation Arises

There are always unexpected situations that may arise in any medical treatment area. One can never predict what will happen to every patient throughout the course of a visit. This could not have been more true, or more alarming than one of our first patients during the second half of the day. As I was measuring a patients blood pressure, I heard through my stethoscope,  "Dr. R, Dr. R"!!!! As I looked up, the patient at the intake table immediately to my left began having a seizure. Luckily I was able to drop everything I was doing, rush to the table, and just as the patient was falling backward violently shaking and ready to hit his head on a cement pillar, I was able to grasp his head to protect it from harm. This patient was in a full blown tonic-clonic seizure. With the assistance of 3 students, I was able to transfer this actively seizing patient to a nearby medical bed to protect him from bodily harm. All the signs and symptoms of a seizure you may learn in class, or witness was happening right before our eyes.  This Rigidly stiff, shaking and drooling patient continued this episode for about 1 minute. Having no rapidly acting anti-seizure medications readily available, we stabilized the patient until the episode ceased. The patients post-ictal phase lasted about 30 minutes with him being confused and lethargic. I am pleased to report that the patient recovered fully. Cool heads prevailed under emergency circumstances.
I am proud of my students for having the intelligence to identify the situation, call for help, and stay calm under such a distressing incident!

Orthopedic Clinic in Can Tho

As we pulled our team bus into the Orthopedic and rehabilitation Center of Can Tho at 8:00 am, it was already close to 90 degrees with 100% humidity, but that didn't stop the hundreds of patients eager to be seen and treated. They sit for hours to receive the potentially only medical care they can afford to receive all year. The medical clinic has multiple areas that our team participates in, Medical Intake, Medical Evaluation, Treatment, Physical Therapy and Pharmacy. The patient's visit starts at the intake station. With a detailed questionnaire, and a very good translator, we are able elicit a very thorough chief compliant, many of which are orthopedic illnesses. The physical assessment component quickly follows with a blood pressure and pulse measurements. Diabetic patients or patients with symptoms of diabetes have their blood glucose measured. Every patient is then seen, evaluated and treated by our team. After Bac Si Ha, with the assistance of our team, develops the treatment plan, the patient is then moved through a physical therapy station, and then ultimately to the pharmacy area where they receive the proper medications and detailed counseling. While expecting a very steep learning curve, we were able to treat 85 patients on the first day of clinic. This exceeded our day 1 goals. with the hopes of increasing that number each day.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Final preparations

Tomorrow is the big day!!! After months of planning, training, and learning (Yes we are still trying to increase our Vietnamese speaking skills), we are close to being ready. Now just the final touches on unpacking, sorting, and reorganizing! The 2013 Vietnam Medical Mission Begins!!! We ARE ready!!!

A Family Reunion of a different type

2012 marked the first year of Temple School of Pharmacy's collaboration with Mercer University on the Vietnam Medical Mission. That having been my rookie year, I agreed to participate without knowing exactly what to expect. I was moved both personally and professionally throughout the month. As the mission ended, our 2 teams were ONE!!

The success of last year will surely continue in 2013.

Today Temple Pharmacy is Reunited with Mercer University!!!!

Keep on running!!! (and smiling)

I am so happy that my passion for good health and exercise has influenced my students. Before departure, one of the first things they told me is that they would definitely pack their running shoes. A few years ago I planted a seed of interest in running with their class, with the hopes that it would take root and last a lifetime. I am not sure the roots were all that long, but this proves to me that my work with them in our running club over the years made a difference, no matter how big or small.
Im proud of all of you for joining me at 5:30 AM, (As if spending over 30 long days with me weren't enough!!!

Family Reunion

While participating in the Vietnam Medical Mission 2012,  Chi Tran spoke to us a lot about her family and where she grew up in Vietnam.  She would tell us how different it was growing up in a small village outside DaNang. Her memories were of a very simple lifestyle. She described her way of life and family in great detail. After hearing that Chi has a grandfather who is 104 years old, I said to her, if we are lucky to return on the Medical Mission in the future, I would love to visit her hometown and meet her family, especially her grandfather. 
We traveled to DaNang and into her small village. We were welcomed with open arms and a delicious home cooked traditional Vietnamese dinner. Family attended in bunches, cousins, uncles etc. Upon arrival, I immediately wanted to meet her grandfather. This 104 year old man had a continual smile on his face seeing his granddaughter. He was as sharp and witty as he was strong. And did I mention, he has a 107 year old brother that lives across the road. Talk about about great genes!!! I was touched by the family closeness and intimacy. I think, culturally, having her Thay (Professor) visit family is a cause for celebration. I was very touched by the outpouring of Love, Respect and Values!! Most of you know that Family is the most important thing in my life, and I reflected on how lucky I am to have seen my own family grow and change. Tomorrow will not be like today, and we are never sure how many tomorrows we have, so count your blessings. Seeing Chi's family brought me back to the foundation of family values. I am blessed to have been invited, and now feel like I have an even more extended family. 

Cam on em Chi.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Exotic foods, When in Vietnam (Rome)

My motto on International journeys is : Ill try anything ONCE, and if I don't like it, then I can at least say I tried. I am happy to say that my current students adopted my motto, at least for food, and are brave enough to try new delicacies. It is a sure way to toughen up your GI tract for a month long opportunity to eat foods not frequently seen at home.
Our area is known for snake dishes and we couldn't pass up the chance to sample some of the local favorites. We enjoyed snake rolls and minced snake. Many of us were brave enough to try a very unique drink concoction, that will go unsaid for the squeemish!!! All were absolutely delicious and all our GI tracts tolerated the strange but exotic cuisine!!!

History, Cultural Awareness and Our Lady of La Vang

Its Sunday and another day of cultural awareness ahead of us. We  visited the 5 mountain region and hiked to the top and explored the historic caves. The peak provided an astonishing view of the city of Da Nang. We continued to travel north adjacent to the Da Nang Bay, the solemn site of where many American Battleships arrived at the peak of the Vietnam (American) war. Seeing the gorgeous landscape, it is hard to fathom that not more than half a decade ago, we were engaged in a National crisis. I think about all those who sacrificed their lives to make this a better land and a warmth bubbled up inside.
We continued north to Our Lady of La Vang! It is said that there are 5 holy shrines in the world and this is one of them. Years ago when the Catholic Religion was persecuted in Vietnam, refugees flocked to an area considered safe from harm. It

is during this period that multiple Catholics have said to have seen The Virgin Mary. It has become a pilgrimage location for those Catholics seeking peace, healing and answers to the prayers of the needy. Luck would have it, a service was just beginning and I had a chance to pray at one of the spots where Mary was witnessed. Hard to imagine a more peaceful and internally satisfying experience than praying at La Vang!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Arrived safely , with a pleasant surprise

I am pleased to report that after 43 hours of transit, the entire Temple School of Pharmacy team arrived safe, healthy and excited to embark on a life altering journey.
The travel began in Philadelphia, taking a bus to JFK airport at 8:30 am Thursday morning. We flew to Osaka Japan, then to Taipei Taiwan where we spent the evening. Sadly we did not get a chance to see any sights in Taipei, but we plan on trying that on our return itinerary. We then flew from Taipei to Saigon. As you can imagine, showing up at customs with 14 (50 lb) bags of medication, we were bound to get questioned. Upon questioning, we provided a signed letter from the Vietnamese government, permitting our entry. After a thorough inventory, we were able to meet some of our hosts and transfer the medication. Immediately, we then boarded a domestic flight to the city of Da Nang. First order of business, visit a local Nha Thuoc, where we met a very lovely Pharmacist who was more than willing to educate us on the culture of pharmacy in Vietnam. Interestingly, her daughter is a current Pharmacy student at Purdue University. Being Saturday, we decided a little rest and relaxation was warranted. After some planning, we ate a light Vietnamese lunch on the beach in Da Nang and enjoyed swimming in the East Sea. As if the sights and sounds of this beautiful beach were not enough, as we started to depart, I noticed an orange glow to our east over the sea. Knowing full well I just saw the sun set over the mountains, AND that I was looking eastward, I still initially thought I was seeing a sunrise. To our amazement, we witnessed one of the most magnificent "moon" rise out of the sea. Its bright, hot, glowing orange color encompassed its fullness. As we drove away, I couldn't help think that in a few hours, our family, friends and loved ones will be seeing the same moon, 10,000 miles away. It was encouraging to know that even half way around the globe, we are still brought together by natures wonders!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Meet the 2013 Vietnam Medical Mission Team

I am blessed to provide oversight and guidance to the 2013 Vietnam Medical Mission team from Temple University School of Pharmacy.
Each of the following students have been selected because they provide a unique piece to our mosaic!

Jordanis Joy
Quynh-Anh Pham
Viet Nguyen
Chi Tran
Hang Nguyen

I am also quite fortunate to have the newest Temple University School of Pharmacy Alumni,             Dr. Thao Nguyen, co-coordinate and assist in the training of our students.

My debt to Thao will never go unnoticed!!!

I am certain this years team will exceed my expectations!!


Chapter Two of Temple University School of Pharmacy's Vietnam Medical Mission

Welcome to the 2013 Vietnam Medical Mission, a collaboration between Temple University School of Pharmacy and Mercer University. For those who have not seen and read about the 2012 mission, please visit

Today begins our second journey with high hopes, aspirations and goals!

Our hope is to grow as clinicians and human-beings through participation in an enriching and fulfilling selfless experience.
Our aspirations are to return as more compassionate, intelligent and empathetic than yesterday.
Our goals are to provide the best possible pharmacy/medical services to the patients who otherwise would go without. 

The overwhelming interest to participate in this mission from Temple's Pharmacy students was touching. It is an example of the level of community health service commitment that Temple School of Pharmacy prides itself on. 

I wish to sincerely thank each student who offered to volunteer their time, money and emotions. Although logistically, it was improbable to accept all the outstanding volunteers, know that I hold you in high regards.

This personally and academically enriching experience could not be possible without the generous support of Dean Peter Doukas, Faculty, the APPE/IPPE office and staff. Our gratitude extends to Bac Si Ha, Van Bui and the Mercer University administration. 

It is my intent to document our international health efforts, both educationally, clinically, and personally through this forum.

Many thanks to all who visit this site!