Foreign doctors in Việt Nam earning local respect

While other doctors seemed to have more advantages working at already established organizations in Việt Nam, it was a bit more challenging for Dr. Wade Brackenbury, an American physician who both practices medicine and runs his own business.

Opening his own chiropractic clinic in Vietnam more than 6 years ago, he has had a life long interest in the treatment of pain and chronic disabilities, which stems from his own youth experience.

Born in Idaho, Brackenbury fractured his lumbar spine playing American football when he was 16.

After three years of crippling pain, he was successfully treated by a German doctor who practiced Chiropractic medicine and acupuncture together.

The difficult experience must have left a profound effect on him professionally and personally, as years later, his interest in chiropractic medicine has brought him to live, study and practice in many different parts of the world.

Studying acupuncture in Korea and China, he had worked in the US, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand, before coming to Hồ Chí Minh City, which “I liked instantly and enjoyed the most”, he said.

After selling his very successful chiropractic clinics in Malaysia, he took a break for three years to travel and concentrate on his family, but says,

“I felt so bored and wanted to do something.

It was not about the money, as we have to work and feel that we are contributing and being useful,”

The doctor recalled.

After travelling to places like Burma in the search to find a new country to live in, he finally decided to settle in Hồ Chí Minh City, then took his wife, his young daughter and “a suitcase” to start a new life here.

It took Dr. Brackenbury 13 months to set up his clinic in Hồ Chí Minh City, which was one of the first places to offer chiropractic treatment in Việt Nam.

“I had to persuade and explain to ministry’s officials about chiropractic medicine [when applying for clinic licenses] because it was too new then.”

Located on a narrow street in district 3, the small clinic is much busier than its quiet appearance first suggests, as it takes, on average, 50 patients a day, with some of his old patients from abroad even flying in to seek the doctor’s treatment.

“Sometimes it can get really busy, up to 60-70 patients a day.”

A receptionist said.

Dr. Brackenbury and two young French doctors together treat skeletal and spinal related problems.

He combines his treatment with physiotherapy and he also conducts independent research on pain resolution and cerebral palsy in children.

Respect for the culture

With an all-Vietnamese staff, his patients are mostly locals.

After the years working in his expanding business, the doctor has a very insightful view of the life of foreign doctors and expats in general in Việt Nam.

“I see two trends:

There are foreigners who are really successful and have good experiences and there are others who don’t seem to be able to make it in Việt Nam.”

Drawing from his own experience, Brackenbury said expats should be respectful, observe and listen to be able to adapt to the local life and enjoy their stay.

“To make things smooth with even your landlord, one should form good relationship and show care toward his or her family.

That is the way here,”

He said, stressing how informal relations are important to the Vietnamese psyche and doing business in the country, especially to a business owner like him.

The doctor himself holds frequent company trips for his staff to boost team building and requires all of his foreign doctors to join.

“I make it a job requirement for applicants as this is important for us and for the Vietnamese as a team.

If they can’t accept it, it is really hard to work for us.”

Asked if he would advise a fellow physician to come work in the country, Brackenbury said:

“Although the financial opportunity is mostly the same with practicing doctors in many places, I don’t think it is for everybody, as only a certain type of person who is willing to go out of their comfort zone and be ready to open themselves up to learn new things is the most suitable.”

To foreign doctors like him, communication with local patients is most important, and “also a challenge”.

Speaking a different language is the biggest obstacle, thus the doctor said he worked really closely with his translators and has given them intensive training to ensure the information he gets from patients is the most accurate.

However, “sometimes Vietnamese patients are not really frank and straightforward about their symptoms like they are in the US, which make it really difficult for us,” he said.

As investment continues to flow in to the booming health care industry in Vietnam, Brackenbury said certainly at present there are services that the market still needs from foreign doctors and clinics, yet in the long term, there will be less and less demand for doctors like him.

“I have worked in many Asian countries and have seen this same thing over and over again as their economy started to develop and the industry took off.

And plus, all the Vietnamese doctors I know have studied or been trained abroad for years.”

Planning to stay in Việt Nam for at least another 3-5 years, the doctor is still excited about his life in Việt Nam every day.

“The food is great, everything we need we can find here.

There are many things to learn every day.”

In his free time, Doctor Brackenbury is an avid photographer and enjoys traveling, rock climbing and hiking with his Vietnamese friends.

Source: Tuổi Trẻ News

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