Thousands of Vietnamese receive health care during joint, combined operation

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lauren Main
  • Pacific Angel-Vietnam 12 Public Affairs
A team of approximately 30 U.S. military service members conducted health education clinics for local residents at two schools here June 10-18. 

The U.S. service members joined more than 25 Vietnamese civilian and military doctors and 21 non-governmental organization volunteers as part of Operation Pacific Angel-Vietnam 12, a joint and combined humanitarian relief effort.

The clinics focused on dental, optometry, women's health, general medicine and public health education intended to improve the health of residents here and provide education about obtaining a healthier lifestyle through better sanitation and basic public health practices.

"There's been a lot of education going on," said Col. Brendan Noone, a family practice doctor with 13th Air Force at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. "Hopefully the education will help with preventative health measures. And if nothing else, I hope they walk away knowing we do care, and we're here to help."

The health clinics and medical care were provided at the Nam Thahn Secondary School, a small compound with six medium-sized rooms, with each room containing a clinic ranging from public health to pharmacy. After the patients made their way through the school's courtyard, they registered with the health service outreach team, which gave the patients a public health brief before they departed to the clinical specialty they required.

The public health section was chosen as the first stop for patients after registration to assist medical personnel in reinforcing the importance of following sanitation practices known to stop the spread of disease and infection. Patients were allowed to visit only one specialty team at a time, and if they needed further medical attention they were required to start the process over again. This was done in an effort to provide as many Vietnamese as possible required medical care and health education.

In total, the Pacific Angel-Vietnam 12 health professionals cared for more than 5,400 Vietnamese, extracting 340 teeth, filling 8,813 prescriptions and issuing glasses to more than 1,200 patients, many of whom have never had glasses before.

"U.S. (service members) partnered extremely well with our NGO's, Project H.O.P.E. and the East meets West Foundation," said Maj. Marlon Muthuveeran, the lead Health Service Outreach planner with 13th. "Both NGO's increased our capability and capacity for treatment."

The dental health clinic saw the most children out of all of the clinics. "Vietnamese children are very stoic, they're very well behaved," said Col. Joseph Novak, an oral surgeon, from the 59th Medical Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Texas. "We very rarely have any that cry. They're just really grateful and I'm truly fortunate to be here to take care of them."

While there was a language barrier that prevented full communication, one common phrase was repeated throughout the engagement: "Thank you."

"I feel like American and Vietnamese relationships have definitely improved," said Tech. Sgt. Sherri Griffin, a pharmacy technician from the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. "Every time I walk out of the pharmacy, everyone wants to thank me and shake my hand. They're extremely grateful."

Pacific Angel-Vietnam 12 served as the foundation and unofficial prescreening for the larger scale health service outreach, Operation Pacific Partnership, led by the U.S. Navy, which is scheduled to visit Nghe An province next month.

"In addition to at least 10 patients that were referred to Pacific Partnership for a higher level of care, patients were also referred to the Nghe An Province Health Department," said Muthuveeran. "It's been a great experience, and I'm very proud of the team work displayed by all members of the team including translators and patient handlers."