Dr. Pham Trong Van: “Through difficulties, we find the glories of science”

Dr. Pham Trong Van is a dedicated professional whose scholarship experience was a big change for him. As he explained, “My thinking changed much after studying in Australia. I began to do more good things for many other people and have the courage to do what no one had done before.”

Dr. Van is now Chair of Ophthalmology Department, Hanoi Medical University and Head of Oculoplastics Department, the National Institute of Ophthalmology. He was a lecturer in the department and an ophthalmologist, eye surgeon at Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology when he applied for his award in 2000. He graduated from the University of Sydney in 2005 with a Doctorate in Medicine.

He spoke about his life and studies in Australia: “I was lucky to be helped by Professor Penfold at Save Sight Institute who agreed to be my supervisor. He had many ideas based on basic science that enlightened my clinical research. Later, two other professors of ophthalmology, Professor Bilson and Professor McCluskey, together with Dr. Madigan, supported my PhD research.”

“At that time, I had to be up regularly at 5 am and arrived home very late, around 10 – 11 pm. I was continually worried that my experiments would fail and I would not be able to report any result. I was homesick and missed my wife and two children so much (one was four, one was only one at that time),” he said.

Dr Van at lab

After much effort, he succeeded in obtaining his PhD degree. Dr. Van drew some lessons from his experience in Australia: “You must think seriously about your future direction and should have an experienced person to guide you. You must identify clearly that studying is arduous and “the path of science” is not like others. Through difficulties, we find the glories of science and sympathize with those who sacrifice their whole lives for science.”

Dr. Van’s course prepared him well for his current position. He has used what he learned in doing research, undertaking examinations and treatment as well as managing his work. With his improved English after four years’ abroad, he could easily access the huge amount of professional knowledge in his field.

In the last few years, Van has been promoted and given more responsibility at work. He has presented papers at international conferences, published articles in journals and received research grants. He has improved his department’s planning systems, introduced new work procedures. and strengthened human resources management. Through his supervision of staff members, he has improved the knowledge and skills of colleagues.

Dr Van presented at a conference

Dr. Van said, “I have introduced and applied more than 15 techniques in ophthalmic surgery. I reformed the way ophthalmic surgery was evaluated, paying more attention to aesthetics and I taught my students new ways of thinking. I have helped colleagues to achieve international awards for scientific ophthalmology and to write articles which were published in professional journals. Two of my students won Young Asian Ophthalmologists awards. I also reformed the examinations for students to ensure fairness and developed online teaching of ophthalmology.”

Dr. Van has also built professional links between his university and universities in Australia. He is the main coordinator of his employer’s relationships with the Hoc Mai Program at the Sydney Medical School at The University of Sydney and with the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) at the University of New South Wales. “I linked the ophthalmic sector in Vietnam with some of the large Australian organizations such as Hoc Mai, Sight for All, and the BHVI,” he said.

Dr Van is at Vision Center

Dr. Van has involved many students and colleagues in these relationships which have increased their professional knowledge and English skills. He is in regular contact with his former lecturers in Sydney and speaks to former classmates a few times a year.