Dr. Lam Minh Yen: tropical disease specialist and Australian Alumni Ambassador

Summary

Dr. Lam Minh Yen is one of the top contagious disease specialists in Viet Nam. Through her pioneering work she has saved lives, trained a new generation of doctors and led the prevention of dangerous epidemics such as Ebola, MERS-CoV and Zika at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City.

A graduate of Flinders University in South Australia, Dr Yen is a member of Australia’s Global Alumni Community. She was recently named an Australian Alumni Ambassador, one of only 12 selected by the Australian Government from across the global network of more than 2.5 million alumni. This is her story.

Article

Dr. Lam Minh Yen was head of Tetanus intensive care at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases before taking up her Australia Awards Scholarship at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. In 2001 Dr Yen completed a Master of Science (Internal Medicine) at Flinders University.

Returning to Vietnam upon graduation, Dr. Yen pioneered new approaches that led to a reduction in the mortality rate for tetanus at the hospital from 20-30 per cent in 1998 to two per cent in 2012 and currently 0.83%.

Dr. Yen achieved this extraordinary result by various means: organising training courses in basic and advanced intensive care techniques for doctors and nurses, ensuring the Intensive Care Department had the right equipment, and organising and participating in scientific research activities to find new approaches for treatment. She also invited Oxford University’s doctors to participate in research at her department.

Reflecting on her past efforts she said: “I needed to be able to persuade the leaders of the hospital to support my ideas. For example, I wanted to save my patients, but if the hospital director refused to buy new breathing machines, how could I do it?”.

Without the Australia Awards scholarship, she added, she would have had no skills or experience in intensive care or intensive care unit management, she said. Nor would she have been able to ‘do it alone’. “I would have had no confidence. I was always a ‘group’ person, did everything with others. Flinders (university) taught me to do it myself and now I want to give my colleagues the confidence to do it alone. That is, to take responsibility”.

In October 2006, Dr Yen was promoted to Vice Director at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. In this role, Dr. Yen was responsible for doctor training programs and for the hospital’s quality assurance, management of medical equipment, consulting nursing care and nosocomial infection control.

Hundreds of Vietnamese and overseas medical students benefited from the expertise and mentorship of Dr Yen until she retired. She organised English language courses to improve the English level of doctors and nurses so that they could take part in training abroad and access international medical documents. Dr Yen introduced international scholarships to young doctors and was instrumental in establishing a club of young doctors to help them improve their professional qualifications.

Dr Yen co-wrote the “Tetanus” chapter in classical medical textbooks such as “Manson’s Tropical Diseases: Textbook for Critical Care” and “Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine” which are used widely by medical schools all over the world. She has researched Hepatitis C and hospital-acquired infection and the results have been published in respected international journals such as Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, Tropical Medicine and International Health, Intensive Care Medicine and the Lancet.

In February 2012, Dr Yen was awarded the title “Eminent Doctor” by Vietnam’s President Truong Tan Sang. She retired from her position at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in February 2016. Thanks to her efforts, her hospital is considered one Vietnam’s leading hospitals in dealing with contagious diseases. She is currently a full-time doctor at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam (OUCRU), one of the Wellcome Trust Major Overseas Programs, based within the Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

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Dr Lam Minh Yen at Intensive Care Department, Hospital of Tropical Diseases in 2011. Photo by Quoc Hung.

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Dr Lam Minh Yen at Hospital of Tropical Diseases in October, 2012. Photo by Planning Department – Hospital of Tropical Diseases

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Dr Lam Minh Yen at Intensive Care Department, Hospital of Tropical Diseases in 2011. Photo by Quoc Hung .

Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2x5j1NtHx8