He has traveled over 500,000 miles, making 36 trips to Vietnam in the past 17 years. We like to think that Dr. Partridge has gone to the moon and back (in miles, quite literally) to improve emergency care for children in Vietnam.

Our program in Vietnam is about giving people – doctors and nurses at the Vietnam National Children’s Hospital (VNCH) in Hanoi – the knowledge and tools to care for the very youngest and most critically-ill patients in the region. Our medical lead for the program, Dr. Colin Partridge, is a Professor Emeritus of Clinical Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. He has been working in Vietnam for the past 17 years, and is about to make his 37th training trip in October! The relationships he has built are deeply personal, and he tells us that on his training trips, “Since I have been going for seventeen years, it’s like visiting family.”

Dr. Colin Partridge, fourth from the left, visits Lao Cai with Global Healing volunteers, staff, and nurses and physicians from the training cohort.

Dr. Colin Partridge (center) is our medical lead in Vietnam. Hands-on trainings address the educational needs of staff and improve care for children in the hospital.

Your very first trip to Vietnam was the beginning of your efforts that continue to this day. Can you tell us a little about your earliest work there to improve care for infants born prematurely?

The first trip was complete serendipity: through a cold call from the Program Director at Orbis International, I was funded to do a needs assessment trip to prevent retinal damage in infants born prematurely. After the assessment, we ended up working in the Intensive Care Unit to train in basic neonatology and oxygen exposure rates. They had the tools to incubate infants born prematurely, so babies were able to survive. However, the use of too much oxygen in treatment can cause vessels in the eye to develop abnormally and lead to vision loss. These babies were surviving, but seeing, if you will, increased rates of retinopathy. This first trip led to a successful training model, and my one visit soon turned into five.

We were able to come in and share best practices, which meant that infants born prematurely in Vietnam had a better chance of surviving and living a healthy life. The Vietnam National Children’s Hospital has gone from not being able to properly ventilate a baby to more than 40 infants on ventilators in the ward; it’s the equivalent of the development of care from the 1960’s to present day in the States, but they have made these advances in only seventeen years.

“Since we are using a Training-of-Trainers model, the staff we’ve trained go out to the NHP’s 12 satellite hospitals and take what they’ve learned to teach other physicians and nurses.”

So this collaboration is extremely effective and has a direct impact on patient care. What motivates you to continue this important work with Global Healing?

It’s the personal incentive that keeps me going. The trainings are hard work but a tremendous amount of fun, and have really changed the various units we have worked in to date. It’s the same thing that motivates me to teach: suddenly you see the cog click in someone’s understanding and they get it, or you see them do a new procedure for the first time. This was very present in my old role training in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

In my new role mentoring other trainers, I get less hands-on satisfaction, but it is a wonderful program with stellar trainers. Since we are using a Training-of-Trainers model, the staff we’ve trained go out to the VNCH’s 12 satellite hospitals and take what they’ve learned to teach other physicians and nurses. Increased capability at the lower levels of care has decreased the number of children who have ended up in the referral hospital nursery because they can now be cared for in the provinces.

In 2011, Dr. Partridge received a Vietnamese Ministry of Health Award for Contribution to People’s Health. It is only the third time a non-Vietnamese individual has won the award since it was established by Ho Chi Minh in 1959. Dr. Partridge’s commitment to teaching doctors and nurses in Vietnam has led to more effective practices, research collaborations, and improved outcomes for children throughout the region. We are thrilled to be able to continue this important work in Vietnam with the support of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), www.rmhc.org.

photo credit: Vietnamese kids via photopin (license)
photo credit: Child & Grandmother – Kon Tum, Vietnam via photopin (license)