Hanoi Medical University (HMU) is the largest, most innovative and longest standing medical institution in all of Southeast Asia. It was founded in 1902 by french colonist Alexandre Yersin and is celebrating 115 years with a party on the campus this November. There are around 10,000 students in the university. Take note USA! HMU Vietnam is doing things right! It has a vibrant and thriving education program for nutrition and preventative medicine embedded within the general medical doctor program. Yes, they have stand-alone programs for Nutrition, but they also have a stand-alone program in preventative medicine at the General Doctor (MD) level. This is a country that is still developing and still focused on communicable diseases, but has the foundation of prevention already built for non-communicable diseases. Nutritionists, Doctors, Preventative Medicine Doctors and students studying these concentrations all work together, study together and live together.
Today I had my first series of meetings with HMU Resident Doctors and Professors and received a key to the department to use as my research office. They did not understand why I was here or what I was hoping to do initially, but they were open to it none the less. I asked them what they knew about Integration and Behavioral Health and they asked me to elaborate and explain. Even with the language barrier they were very excited about the prospects of the study and are now invested in the success of the research.
After the morning meeting I participated in the morning session lectures for the Masters of Public Health program. Today’s lecture was about food safety and nutrition given by professor Odilia Bermudez, PhD, MPH, LDN of Tufts University School of Medicine. The main food safety problem in Vietnam is a volatile and ever-changing food supply that causes difficulties in standardizing food safety across the country. (You will all be pleased to know that my complete obsession and addiction-like dependence on education will be sated here, because I am able to sit in on lectures in the college during my down time for the next three weeks. I am self-diagnosing a new subset of Substance Use Disorder: Education Use Disorder (EUD)? It’s a joke but it’s only funny because it is true!)
Lunch is always a community dining experience of traditional Vietnamese cuisine. The professors all eat together and then have a rest (nap) before afternoon classes. During the afternoon session I lead a round table discussion about concepts of Integrated Behavioral Health including Motivational Interviewing, population health strategy, and preventative medicine. My audience and collaborators were HMUs current class of Resident Doctors who were very engaged and insightful. Long story about a long day made short: I love this work!