Carina Trinh (second from right), Jessie Huang (right) and students of the Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine
By Carina Trinh
It’s almost impossible to go overseas without being the slightest bit curious about optometry in another country, to wonder what it would have been like if you had been destined for a parallel life in a different setting.
In October 2015, I ventured to Vietnam seeking a better understanding of my heritage, to meet family, learn about their way of living and understand a little better the culture in which my parents grew up. I wanted to experience the dwellings I could have been residing in, the career I might have had, and to learn about the country my parents fled from back in 1984 and the cities they feared.
Having been in touch with Jessie Huang, who had been volunteering in Ho Chi Min City to set up the very first optometry school in Vietnam, I was keen to get a glimpse of what she was doing and help out where possible. My contribution was very minor, simply conducting a book drive to gather textbooks for the students. We’ve been lucky to have acquired quite a few textbooks and even a keratometer. Now it’s just a matter of working out how to ship the rest of them to Vietnam.
It was an interesting experience when I arrived at Pham Ngoc Thach Medical University, where Jessie greeted me and introduced me to the students. It was an honour to meet a lovely bunch of future optometrists who were so grateful for and excited by their new, donated textbooks. I watched the end of Jessie’s lecture on light as radiation and dispensing options as protection from ultraviolet radiation.
I also learned about university culture here, where they have a scheduled break in the middle of the day, and the students have a siesta in the hallways. Walking through the university you see rows and rows of students resting on the ground.
Minh Anh presenting at ASEAN Ophthalmology Society Conference
The second part of my optometry experience was when I ventured to Hanoi and met up with my dear friend Minh Anh. She was the first and only optometrist in Vietnam for a few years after her graduation from LV Prasad in Hyderabad, on a scholarship with the Brien Holden Vision Institute. She is an absolutely amazing woman and an incredible optometrist. I was fortunate to shadow her for five days, witnessing some interesting keratoconic cases and paediatric RGP cases. The highlight for me was watching an aphakic six-month-old being fitted with RGPs.
Minh Anh comes from a family of ophthalmologists; her mother is one of the leading paediatric ophthalmologists who underwent her studies in Bulgaria. She is constantly invited worldwide to speak and educate others. Minh Anh’s sister Uyen is also an ophthalmologist who underwent her studies in China. She had to study in a foreign language and now is completely fluent in Chinese.
I had the opportunity to mingle with the first optometrists of Vietnam and leaders for the profession. They are working hard to establish optometry in the new environment.
A new optometry school has also opened up at Hanoi Medical University and I discovered that they are also seeking textbooks. It was very interesting witnessing how optometry will navigate itself into the health system alongside ophthalmology within Vietnam. I have no doubt that optometry will play a revolutionary role in Vietnam to improve eye care for the country.
Thank you all for your generous donations. We are still looking for optometry textbooks, so please get in touch if you have some that you can spare.
I would be curious to hear about anyone’s experience of optometry abroad, so please email Young Optometrists at email@example.com if you’d like to share.
Carina (third from left) with Jessie Huang (second from right) and students
of the Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine
Hanoi by night
Reproduced with permission YO NSW