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Ryan Honculada | 2018

The 2018 Summer VnHOPE Medical Mission is the first year that I have went out with this group, or on a mission in general. I must say prior to joining the team, I had some expectations for the trip. However, this mission more than exceeded everything I thought it was going to be, thus truly making for an unforgettable experience. Never in my life have seen such a large gathering of volunteers and health care professionals show the dedication and compassion that I have seen on this trip. It really made me think of how much I need to step up to show the same passion in my work. I would be reticent in saying that the project itself did not come with its own pitfall, facing problems with the protests and gathering work permits. Nonetheless, the organizers of this trip did everything in their power to ensure the success of the mission! While in wait for work permits, we were still able to spend time at various orphanage playing with the children and helping out at the local veteran’s hospital preparing meals for families and patients. The delighted looks of everyone’s face that we saw on the mission proved to me the impact that we were making on the communities if only for the short time when we were there.

When it came time to the clinical days, I was able to witness the strong work ethics, patience and kindness of all the volunteers on the mission that I would like to implement as a future health care professional. As a student volunteer, I gained a wonderful experience as we were able to rotate between various departments in the pop-up clinic. I was exposed to patient care experience working in adult vitals checking for blood glucose and blood pressures. I rounded in optometry, running visual acuity checks, and helped fill prescriptions with the pharmacy team. Through all of our hard earned efforts student volunteers and health care professionals, we were able to see over 2,000 patient cases from start to finish.

I was given the opportunity to shadow Dr. Ching, a pain management physician, who taught me about sterile techniques and discussed symptoms, clinical findings and indications for when to administer trigger point injections versus joint injections and clinical reasons to perform epidural steroid injections. Under his direct supervision, I was able to perform a subacromial steroid injection into the shoulder. I was also given time to shadow Dr. Oanh, an emergency room physician who was working in pediatric vitals during the mission. We discussed patient assessments and the cases that you would see in family medicine. On a separate day, I was able to work with Dr. Oanh and RN John where we taught CPR/AED course to the Tan Tao Medical Students where I was also able to lead one of the lectures.

I was later asked to assist Dr. Lam inside the dental room where I assisted with two tooth extractions and one root tip extraction, all while learning about the intricacies and challenges of an oral maxillofacial surgeon. However, what really struck a chord with me was when I worked in the dental unit seeing patients being treated for dental hygiene care. Back in the states, I hear of so many people talk about how they missed their own dental appointments or how they dread going to the dentist. However, most of the patients I saw on this trip forgo their own dental care either through lack of education, supplies or both. It really got me thinking about how I take our own countries healthcare for granted as something like dental care seems more like a luxury in more impoverished countries. This only reaffirmed my mission as a future health care professional to provide health education to as many people as I can to reduce the prevalence of non-communicable diseases seen amongst patients.

It was a humbling experience to see this population of people take advantage of the care we had to offer. Through this mission, I have seen care, compassion, empathy and love displayed by every single member that participated on the trip. Although I myself, could not speak to the people of Vietnam in the same language, the language of healing is universal. Through this universal medium, I have been able to connect with people and patients in more ways than I ever though I could by gaining lifetime colleagues and building lasting friendships. Thank you VnHOPE and thank you to everyone for making this such a wonderful experience I will never forget.

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