Kyle Ericson, MD
Kyle Ericson, MD
Urology · Cleveland, OH

Urology Medical Trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

March 22nd
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Project Description

I plan to travel to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam with a well-established organization, International Volunteers in Urology (IVUmed). In addition to providing much needed surgical care to local residents, IVUmed’s mission is to train local surgeons to perform operations they are not familiar with via specialized intensive surgical training and distance learning opportunities so they can continue to impact an area long after the trip ends. In Ho Chi Minh I will assist Dr. Joel Gelman, a urologist that specializes in reconstructive surgery. Dr. Gelman travels to Vietnam for two weeks each year to share his expertise in urethral reconstructive surgery.

Population Served

This project will directly benefit the patients we care for on our trip as well as the local urologists in Ho Chi Minh and their future patients.

Expected Impact

The goal of this project is to improve local urologists’ ability to perform urethral reconstructive surgery. Specifically, our group will focus on performing and teaching urethroplasties, which are a surgical treatment of urethral stricture disease. Beyond impacting local patients and physicians, this trip will improve my understanding of how surgical medical trips can have a meaningful, lasting impact on a community. I plan to continue participating in similar trips throughout my career. Previously, I participated in medical mission trips to the Mississippi Delta region as well as the Rosebud American Indian Reservation in South Dakota. This will be my first experience with a surgically oriented medical trip.

Trip Photos & Recap

My trip to Ho Chi Minh City, a vibrant city often referred to by its former name, Saigon, showcased the far-reaching impact of a well-executed international medical collaboration. Over the past six years, two surgeons, with the help of International Volunteers in Urology (IVUmed), recognized an area of medical need in Vietnam and worked to fill the void in a meaningful and lasting way.

Binh Dan Hospital, located in Ho Chi Minh City, sees a high volume of patients with urethral stricture disease, which is often a sequalae of pelvic fracture. As anyone who has braved crossing the streets of Ho Chi Minh will attest, scooters are a common form of transportation for Vietnamese citizens. Unfortunately, this translates to many motor vehicle accidents and pelvic fractures. Recognizing a need for expertise in complex urethral reconstruction, IVUmed and Dr. Joel Gelman, a reconstructive urologist from University of California Irvine, established a relationship with a Vietnamese urologist, Dr. Hung Do. Dr. Hung completed a fellowship in with Dr. Gelman and subsequently returned to Vietnam to create a urethral reconstructive program at Binh Dan Hospital. Since 2013, Dr. Hung and Dr. Gelman have established Binh Dan as a Center of Excellence in urethral reconstruction in Southeast Asia. Dr. Hung has performed over 800 urethroplasties with a greater than 90% success rate. To further hone Dr. Hung’s operative skills, Dr. Gelman returns each year for two weeks to operate on particularly complex cases. This year, with the support of the Doximity Foundation’s Travel Grant, I travelled with Dr. Gelman’s team to learn about urethral reconstruction and operate on Vietnamese men with urethral stricture disease.

After observing urethroplasty cases, I often followed other Vietnamese urologists at Binh Dan Hospital. Though they have technically advanced tools, like flexible ureteroscopes and a da Vinci® Si surgical robot, insurance restrictions require many patients to pay steep out-of-pocket expenses to take advantage of these tools. Thus, surgeons there must be resourceful and are skilled in operations rarely performed in the United States, like laparoscopic stone surgery and laparoscopic prostatectomy. This was an excellent opportunity to participate and observe operations I may not see again. The Vietnamese urologists were skillful and creative, often innovating to keep costs low (e.g. using the finger of a latex glove as a laparoscopic balloon dilator). Furthermore, the surgeons were remarkably gracious in welcoming and teaching their American visitors.

Ho Chi Minh City is a remarkable place that I’ll remember fondly. I left feeling inspired by the lasting impact Dr. Gelman has had in Vietnam by collaborating with Dr. Hung, and feel especially grateful to our kind Vietnamese hosts. This trip seemed to be the ideal representative of IVUmed’s motto: Teach One, Reach Many. I anticipate international medicine will remain an important aspect of my career and will draw from this experience when seeking to have a lasting impact in an area of need.