MACON – Two teams of Mercer On Mission students will travel to Vietnam this week to provide aid to amputees and health care to the poor. The trip begins Thursday for the nearly 40 students and faculty from schools and colleges across Mercer’s Macon and Atlanta campuses. The groups will return on June 25.
Dr. William F. Bina, dean of the School of Medicine, his wife, Gayle Bina, an assistant professor of public health, and Dr. Maurice Clifton, associate dean of admissions and student affairs at the Medical School, along with Brenda Rowe and Frieda Fuller, professors in the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing in Atlanta, will lead a group of 15 students on a medical mission to treat patients at two clinics. Meanwhile, Dr. Ha Van Vo, associate professor of biomedical engineering, Dr. Ramachandran Radharamanan, a professor of industrial engineering, and Dr. Craig McMahan, university minister and dean of the chapel, will lead a team of 11 engineering students to fit 100 amputees with a Mercer-designed prosthetic.
The teams will travel as a group, working in concert over 11 treatment days during the trip, which will be interspersed with class time and cultural activities. The groups will set up in a hospital in the southern city of Can Tho and at a clinic in Ca Mau.
In the first Mercer On Mission trip to Vietnam last year, the team led by Dr. Vo treated nearly 1,000 patients suffering from a variety of maladies. They plan to work with a similar number this time, providing health assessments, treatment, and even medication. The group includes four undergraduate students from the Macon campus, five senior nursing students, two medical students and four Doctor of Pharmacy candidates from the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Atlanta. Each student will participate in all aspects of the clinics, from intake to health education.
“My intent is for this trip to be a service and learning experience,” Dr. Bina said. “Each one of the students will be a part of the entire clinical process.”
Dr. Bina, Dr. Clifton and Dr. Fuller will focus on treatment, while Gayle Bina, and Dr. Rowe will work on the public and global health aspects, Dr. Bina said. As part of Mercer On Mission, the students are taking two courses – health systems and policy and introduction to global health.
“This is a good experience for our students because they will learn that treating patients is a matter of understanding them, understanding their perspective and how to empathize with them,” Dr. Bina said. “It also will provide a better understanding of the global health issues through experiencing the contrasts between the U.S. and Vietnamese systems. From that, they will be better U.S. citizens, because they will better understand the positives and negatives of the U.S. system.”
In the prosthetics program’s first year, the team fitted 35 prosthetics and cast 27 people for fitting on this year’s trip. This year, the team will deliver the 27 fitted prosthetics, and at least 63 more, Dr. McMahan said. As part of the trip, the students are studying two courses, prosthetic design and biomechanics of amputees with Dr. Vo and innovation and entrepreneurship with Dr. Radharamanan.
In addition to the fittings, Dr. Vo and Dr. Radharamanan will also work with several technicians from Vietnam to establish a prosthetic manufacturing and fitting lab to continue building a fitting prosthetics after the Mercer On Mission trip leaves. The effort to create the lab in Vietnam is funded by a Sustainable Vision Grant of $37,275 from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance. Dr. Vo invented a low-cost prosthetic that can be fitted without full customization, which makes it an affordable alternative to those in developing nations who must often go without. The Alliance grant will help efforts to increase the functionality of other parts of the prostheses, including the knee, pylon, ankle and foot. The Vietnam program is slated for three years, and Dr. Vo hopes to expand the program to India and Thailand in later years.
Because the project is addressing a worldwide problem, it has garnered national and international attention, including praise from the Clinton Global Initiative in 2009 and 2010. In addition, the Atlanta Business Chronicle presented Dr. Vo with a Health-Care Hero award last month for his work on the prosthetic.
The problem of amputees who must go without prosthetics is particularly acute in Vietnam. More than 2,000 Vietnamese are injured each year by land mines and unexploded bombs left during the Vietnam War. An estimated 100,000 amputees live in Vietnam today, and there are more than 18 million amputees around the world, with more than 80 percent of those living in developing countries.
About Mercer On Mission
Now in its fourth year, Mercer On Mission is a unique blend of study abroad and service-learning that provides life-changing experiences for students through academic instruction, cultural immersion, meaningful service, and spiritual reflection. This year, more than 100 students will travel to countries across three continents to serve others.
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,000 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
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