At the request of doctors at the newly opened pediatric oncology department at Nhi Dong 2 Hospital (Children’s Hospital 2), Impact Health Vietnam (IHVN) embarked on its first inaugural oncology mission trip to Saigon, Vietnam in April 2014. We primarily focused on the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric hematologic malignancies. From 2015 to 2019, the IHVN oncology team realized they needed to emphasize the importance of accurate diagnosis rather than the treatment of leukemias and lymphomas, which has been a common weakness across the major cancer centers throughout Vietnam. Our work mainly consists of on-site visits, lectures, presentations and case consultations. Our oncology team specialists have been invited to present at many national and international symposiums organized by Vietnamese pathologists and have become well known, sought after clinical specialists in the country.
Telemedicine and telepathology were identified as a necessity during our 2018-2019 missions, as we realized our annual trip could only cover a small portion of the needs of education and training for many medical practitioners in Vietnam. In 2019, we offered a biweekly telemedicine program to all Vietnamese pathologists and clinicians focusing on improving the diagnosis of lymphomas. Our lecturers are Board certified hematopathologists and have traveled to Vietnam as medical mission volunteers many times. Lecturers have extensive experience and understanding of the major difficulties their Vietnamese counterparts are facing daily.
The Coronavirus pandemic has affected our work in Vietnam since the beginning of 2020. Travel bans and country/hospital lockdowns have halted our destination visits until further notice. For the past two and half years, we have relied on a weekly virtual program to assist Vietnamese pathologists with difficult patient cases at many blood cancer centers in Saigon and Hanoi. Using Zoom, our experts in hematopathology have collaborated with Vietnamese pathologists to help solve many rare and difficult leukemia and lymphoma cases. 11 cases were consulted via Zoom in 2020 with an increase to 46 cases in 2021. So far in 2022, 15 cases have been consulted on Zoom.
Since our first mission in 2014, our team of cancer specialists recognized that in addition to helping Vietnamese pathologists improve their knowledge and skills in the diagnosis of lymphomas, the laboratory work also needs to be addressed. Optimal slides preparations by lab technologists in Vietnam, equipment maintenance and upgrade, lab protocols, continuing education and training schedule for the staff should be considered by the department administrators.
We are looking forward to traveling to Vietnam again soon, as many components of our long term oncology mission can only be achieved on site while working alongside our local partners in Vietnam.