Foreign doctors in Việt Nam: a tale of two

For foreign physicians on the journey to developing countries, money is not their main motivation.

Dr. Suresh Rangarajan is an American physician who studied at the University of Michigan Medical which is consistently ranked among the top seven medical schools in the United States and practiced medicine after at the University of California, San Diego–Medical Center before coming to Việt Nam.

He came to Việt Nam to support his wife who is director of an international NGO in Hồ Chí Minh City.

He is also attracted to the idea of practicing medicine in a new country and exploring a new culture.

It is easy for an experienced and qualified doctor like Dr. Suresh to get a well-paid job in the US because of the demand for physicians.

However, he feels that he can be of more assistance to patients and the overall health care system in Việt Nam, despite earning a fraction of what could be earned by practicing in his hometown of San Diego.

Dr. Suresh said he practices medicine in Việt Nam not so much for the income, but to help the patients and support the expatriate community who are far from home.

He has done some volunteer training for Vietnamese doctors and for the past two years has worked as a physician at Victoria International Clinic on Điện Biên Phủ Street in Hồ Chí Minh City.

He lives with his wife and two little kids in the city’s downtown area and goes to the clinic by motorcycle every day.

“The culture is very beautiful, the food is very wonderful.

Sometimes it’s too hot, sometimes it’s too wet – but no place is perfect.

Hồ Chí Minh City is an amazing city with great energy, especially by motorcycle,” he talks about his current life in Việt Nam.

Most of his patients at Victoria clinic are expatriates who want a doctor able to help them and fully understand their medical problems.

Understandably, the English-speaking doctors like Dr. Suresh are their favorite.

“Many foreigners want to see doctors from outside Việt Nam to give them the clinical care that they need.

Some of them also want to see a doctor from America.

That’s why patients come to me.”

Dr. Suresh said.

He also has a good relationship with local patients.

“If I see Vietnamese people here, Vietnamese nurses and doctors help translate.”

Dr. Suresh said with a smile.

However, during his time spent working as a physician in Việt Nam, sometimes he is not able to help patients with rare conditions or difficult diagnoses.

“Many times, it’s difficult for us to make a diagnosis, particularly diagnoses of cancer, endocrine disease, and other rare conditions.

We don’t have full diagnostic and treatment support here.

It is difficult to find good pathology and up-to-date treatment for cancers.”

He said.

Dr. Suresh says his family has a plan to go back to the US because “you contribute to another country but one day you have to go back and do the same at home.”

“Many Vietnamese doctors with special talents whom I get to know in California want to come back their hometown to help patients and contribute to the country’s medical system.

Việt Nam should welcome them.”

Dr. Suresh added.

Doctors live comfortably in any country

Dr Claudio Duek, an orthopedic surgeon at Family Medical Practice in District 1 said that he really enjoys the Vietnamese rhythm of life and feels happy when patients show him when they are happy in nice ways.

He said the income for foreign doctors like him is enough to live in Việt Nam.

“In general, doctors earn enough to leave comfortably in any city, never too much, but enough.”

Dr. Claudio, who was born in Argentina, practiced medicine in Việt Nam by chance nine years ago.

He was an Orthopedic Surgeon Specialist in his hometown.

Then he moved to Paris where, after few years, he became an upper limb and hand micro-surgeon and specialist at a Paris surgery school.

During his time in Paris, he had an offer to be part of Hồ Chí Minh City-based FV hospital as a head of the Hand surgery department.

“So,  I came for a week to visit Việt Nam and the project and I decided to move because I found Hồ Chí Minh City wonderful,”

Dr. Claudio recalled.

Dr. Claudio is also a hand surgery consultant at Hồ Chí Minh City-based Chợ Rẫy hospital where he has worked once a week for the last few years.

He appreciates highly the talent and skills of Vietnamese surgeons at the Chợ Rẫy Hospital.

“My colleagues are great surgeons and take the academic side very seriously.

The only problem is the number of patients a day and the access to facilities.

Maybe this is the big difference, but from the skills point of view, there is nothing to complain about,” he said.

When asked about the fact that most public hospitals in Việt Nam are suffering from high levels of stress and overload,

Dr. Claudio points out.

“Most of the people are starting slowly to have access to insurance, even locals, so, gradually Việt Nam will become, as other countries, a place where the people can choose where they can be treated medically.

But at this time, only the upper middle class have this privilege and this is the reason why local hospitals are full.”

Source: Tuổi Trẻ News

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