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SOAHS collaborates with Vietnam NGO – The Manipal Journal
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SOAHS collaborates with Vietnam NGO

Manipal: In an attempt to strengthen the Indo-Vietnamese bond, the School of Allied Health Sciences (SOAHS), Manipal University signed a five-year contract with an eminent NGO, Medical Committee Netherlands-Vietnam (MCNV) for the establishment of an indigenous Occupational Therapy (OT) setup in Vietnam on August 18, 2016.

“This is the first time that SOAHS has taken an initiative of such a magnitude that too with another country,” said Dr. Sebestina Anita D’Souza, Head of Department, Occupational Therapy at SOAHS and head of this project. Dr. D’Souza has also conducted two workshops on her visits to Vietnam. This helped her know several aspects of Vietnamese education. “Vietnam is beyond the war we all know of; it is a beautiful country with a huge scope of development in the medical sector”, she added. Dr. Ramji, Director of International Affairs (MU), offered support to Dr. D’Souza throughout the implementation of this program.

Before the initiation of the program, five faculty members from Hai Duong Medical and Technical University and University of Medicine and Pharmacy, along with an MCNV programme co-coordinator, had visited Manipal for a month long training programme to assess and understand the whereabouts of OT in SOAHS. The passion and dedication showed by the members was greatly appreciated by the project supervisors. Despite being faculty representatives from their respective universities they keenly submitted their assignments well before the deadline.

Occupational therapy can simply be defined as the use of particular, meaningful activities as an aid to impairments or limitations in physical or mental functioning. The primary prospect of this project is sharing knowledge and assisting another country to take a historic step in the field of OT. The immediate objective of this initiative involves capacity building; making the Vietnamese self-sufficient in the field of OT.

This collaboration is a delicately woven network; if any unit of this project fails to function, it could also lead to severe repercussions for the others. At times the language barrier tends to hinder the course of the program as a considerable number of students are not fluent in English.

SOAHS is hosting five students from Vietnam who are learning OT in SOAHS. They will be pursuing their Undergraduate and Postgraduate degrees in OT. These students are faculty members from two leading government universities in Vietnam – Hai Duong Medical and Technical University, Hai Duong (North Vietnam) and University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Ho Chi Minh City (South Vietnam). On completion of the course, these members will be well-qualified to practice OT in their own country.

Meanwhile, a pilot programme will also be set up to enable lateral entries for the exchange of students between SOAHS and the Vietnamese universities. The ultimate goal is to ensure that at least 20 students from each university gain a sound knowledge of the OT program within the five-year term. This contract might be extended if the project is successful.

This collaboration will significantly increase the visibility for MU. OT is an increasingly important & developing field of study, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States of America and Australian based international universities are present in Vietnam. MU is one among the few from Asia. The current plan is to help them start and develop OT in the country. As of now MU doesn’t have its own university in Vietnam but this team-up may aid the cause in later years. OT has been around for many years at the global level but OT as a part of rehabilitation is very new to Vietnam. Dr. D’Souza believes that this venture will prove to be a huge milestone for them in the field of Disability Management and Rehabilitation.

MCNV has been supporting health development in Vietnam since 1968 and has garnered good will and recognition for their campaigns and causes. On the same lines as OT, they might also strengthen speech therapy.

Interacting and studying alongside students from other countries will be a major learning experience in terms of culture and techniques which will help broaden perspectives. MU faculty and students will be invited to Vietnam hence extending their expertise beyond classroom learning; organising clinical workshops for them in Vietnam. Students at MU are accustomed to well-established equipment set-ups; visiting Vietnam will pose a massive challenge (providing OT with minimal facilities) to them in terms of social infrastructure as OT is still in its primitive stages there. Vietnam has a strong community base with World Health Organisation (WHO). The project is well-funded by USAID and Handicap International, two major stakeholders at MCNV. The modus operandi for the program is bound by stringent deadlines and extremely professional behaviour.

Rehabilitation programs in Vietnam are mostly concerned with physical therapy and not with functional disabilities. OT plays a major role in mental rehabilitation. It is a fairly contextual concept and it helps the patient to be an independent contributing member of the society. Although OT was introduced to Vietnam several years ago, it could only be done by overseas medical experts. The strategic capacity-building by these Vietnamese universities by undertaking OT, has proved beneficial so far.

“We are just a small part of a really big project and have been given a responsibility to initiate OT in Vietnam after finishing this course,” elaborated Tram. Tram graduated in Physical Therapy (PT) from her university last year and was chosen to participate in this project. This OT program will help her and her fellow Vietnamese friends Ngan, Loan, Dat and Tuan to develop the community-based rehabilitation in their country. For most of the students, coming to India was a challenging feat since they had never stepped out of Vietnam in their life.

Despite all odds, the students have happily accepted this challenge to make the best possible use of the 5-year MoU for the betterment of the medical facilities in their nation.

Edited by Anirban Paul

Shivani Singh

shailfs96@gmail.com

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