UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 2 | Jan.
Vietnam supplies one-of-a-kind experience for dental residents
Lessons learned go beyond dentistry, says alumnus
Whole families perched precariously on speeding mopeds is one of
the images that Ali Behmard associates with a recent three-week
residency rotation in Vietnam.
"The huge volume of people and the numbers of motorcycles made
a big impression as soon as I stepped off the plane," says Behmard,
a UBC dental school alumnus who is completing a one-year general
practice hospital residency.
The rotation at the Institute of Odontostomatology in Ho Chi Minh
City is the only such training experience among Canadian dental
Moped and motorcycle riders in the city of 6.5 million don't wear
helmets and Behmard reports that he saw about 24 dental traumas
daily, most related to motor vehicle accidents.
In addition, he assisted oral surgeons in Operation Smile -- a
one-week blitz of surgery on cleft lip and palates. Vietnam has
one of the highest incidence rates of the deformity in the world.
Behmard was able to assist in some of the more than 200 surgeries
completed by local surgeons and those from Europe and North America
who come to the country to help with the intensive program.
"In my entire undergraduate education, I only saw about three
of these cases," says Behmard. "The amount of dental, academic and
life experience I gained on this rotation was amazing."
He was impressed by patients' gratitude for the care they received
even though many of them were sleeping on the floor in hallways
because of bed shortages. Many families were unable to afford complete
surgical care, he says, and it was difficult to see patients, including
children, leaving hospital with reduced function and aesthetic losses.
"Everything I saw made me truly understand the value of health
care," he says. "It was wonderful to help where your help is really
needed." Behmard traveled to Vietnam with Chris Zed, Faculty of
Dentistry's assistant dean, Strategic and External Affairs, and
also postgraduate programs director.
"This is a huge learning experience for residents," says Zed.
"It builds their skills, broadens their scope and allows them to
offer service in a way that matches the area's needs."
North American hospitals cannot offer the same variety of experience
for trainees, he says, because there are many fully qualified staff
to handle surgeries. Also, residents on Third World rotations are
exposed to oral conditions not seen in North America because Third-World
dental care is limited and diseases progress further and with more
The rotation was enabled in part by the University of Ho Chi Minh
and by UBC Dentistry alumnus Andrew Tsang who works in Vietnam at
an international clinic.
Zed worked with him to establish the scope, goals and partners
of the new program which may expand to include resident lectures
given to staff at the city's cancer control agency.
Septodont, a Quebec-based anaesthetic manufacturer, sponsored
the 2001 residency rotation. This year's resident will travel to
Vietnam in November.