Project Report: Voluntary Surgery Mission to the Odonto Maxillo Facial Hospital, Vietnam

By Michael Schenberg (Team Leader), Melbourne, Australia – June 2017

Team Members of the 2017 Odonto Maxillo Facial Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Team Members of the 2017 Odonto Maxillo Facial Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

This visit, which took place from Monday 12 to Friday 16 June 2017, was the thirteenth annual voluntary surgical team mission that I have led to the Odonto Maxillo Facial Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The hospital is a tertiary referral centre for oral and maxillofacial surgery for the southern half of Vietnam. The hospital recently commissioned four new operating rooms and we were honoured to be the first foreign team to operate in them. The three old ORs are still functioning. The hospital has over 100 beds.

This year’s team comprised ten volunteer members: two oral and maxillofacial surgeons, two plastic and reconstructive surgeons, two anaesthetists, a trainee plastic surgeon, a dentist and two OR nurses.

On Monday morning, we screened 105 patients. These patients came from Ho Chi Minh City or the impoverished rural provinces of the southern half of Vietnam. The cases referred to our team were of the more surgically challenging and complex type. The range of cases included old untreated facial fractures, cleft lip and palate deformities, large ameloblastomas for resection and reconstruction, various facial congenital deformities, complex orthognathic surgery cases, post jaw resection deformities for reconstruction, large fibrous dysplasia cases and a range of other extensive pathologies.

During the week, the team operated on 53 cases. Over the thirteen years that our team has worked at the Odonto Maxillo Facial Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, we have operated on approximately 600 individuals.

We performed surgery all day from Monday afternoon to Friday afternoon. Some procedures were very complex involving up to seven hours of surgery to complete. We were supported by, and worked closely with, the local oral and maxillofacial surgeons and trainees, anaesthetists and nurses. Most of the hospital surgical staff have worked closely with our team members during all our visits to the hospital. The close and collaborative engagement between our team members and the local hospital staff has been a particularly rewarding experience for all.

The procedures performed on all cases were life-changing for each patient. It was particularly rewarding for all team members to experience the expressions of gratitude from all of our patients, their families and the hospital staff.

On the last afternoon of our visit the hospital hosted a ceremony of appreciation for the Australian team members.

Team members with hospital oral and maxillofacial surgery staff
Team members with hospital oral and maxillofacial surgery staff

Our efforts to care for the local patients could not have occurred without the essential contributions of various individuals, companies and associations. All surgical team members were self-funded and donated their time and skills to contribute to the team’s work. We received donations of essential equipment and materials from a range of sources including Defries Industries, Epic Pharmacy (Berwick), Johnson and Johnson, KLS Martin, St John of God Hospital Berwick, Teleflex Medical and Waverley Private Hospital. A grant from the Overseas and Outreach Aid Committee of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons part funded the costs of the nurse members. Essential surgical and anaesthetic instruments, purchased with grants kindly supplied by ANZAOMS and the International College of Dentists, were used by the team during our visit.

This trip was another wonderful and rewarding experience for all team members. We have been invited to return next year and all members look forward to continuing the team’s special association with the hospital, the Vietnamese patients and their families who entrust us with their care.

What is ANZAOMS?

The Australian and New Zealand Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (ANZAOMS) is the professional representative organisation for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS).

Our focus is on the advancement, advocacy for, and continuing education of OMS, through engagement with all levels of government, regulators, key public and private stakeholders and the general public.

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