Medicos awarded Vietnam's highest health honour

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11 November 2008

Sydney University medicos - Dean of Medicine, Professor Bruce Robinson, and Professor Kerry Goulston, a gastroenterologist from the Northern Clinical School have taken out Vietnam's highest health honour, the People's Health Medal.

The pair won the Medal for their achievements in improving the protection, care and health of the Vietnamese people through their not-for-profit organisation, the Hoc Mai Foundation. It was awarded to the pair at a recent ceremony in Vietnam by Vietnamese Vice-Minister of Health Nyugen Thi Kim.

Maggie Drummond, former executive officer of the Foundation was also awarded the Medal.

The Hoc Mai Foundation was established by Sydney University in 2001 as a not-for-profit organisation to foster exchange of medical and healthcare education and knowledge between Australia and Vietnam, particularly between young medical students and experienced health professionals.

It has successfully initiated many programs in Vietnam to improve the country's medical capability and infrastructure, while providing University of Sydney medical students with additional skills to practice medicine in the global environment.

In 2005 the Foundation opened Hoc Mai House in Hanoi, a converted laundry that now houses up to 300 relatives/friends of patients, as well as patients awaiting surgery, in Viet Duc, Hanoi's largest surgical hospital. Previously these people slept in the hospital grounds.

This year the Foundation has undertaken a project in Vietnam's largest maternity hospital to teach fetal welfare assessment, emergency obstetric management and neonatal resuscitation in a bid to lower perinatal mortality and morbidity. There are over 40,000 babies born at the Tu Du Hospital every year with many women travelling considerable distances to receive their medical care.

The Foundation is also helping to run in Vietnam a Primary Trauma Care project, an e-health project and helping Vietnamese health professionals better understand 'medical english', amongst its many activities.

Students from Hanoi Medical University have been offered scholarships at University of Sydney's Northern Clinical School and second and third year medical students from Sydney University have been funded to undertake clinical placements in Hanoi or Danang in Vietnam.

This year the Foundation brought over 30 Vietnamese health professionals for three month fellowship placements in Australian health facilities (on AusAID Australian Leadership Awards funding). Last year they brought over 24 Fellows.

In accepting the Medal Professor Robinson said it was a great honour and paid tribute to the many people involved in the work of the Hoc Mai Foundation since its inception.

"Hoc Mai means 'forever learning' and the Hoc Mai Foundation was borne from the idea that Vietnam and Australia could best develop our friendship through the exchange of knowledge between our two countries," Professor Robinson said.

"In accepting this award I do so on behalf of the hundreds and hundreds of clinicians in Australia and in Vietnam who have contributed their time, their enthusiasm and their knowledge to the development of great friendships between Australia and Vietnam and it is really those people who deserve this award."

Contact: Sarah Stock

Phone: 02 9114 0748 or 0419 278 715