October 26, 2001

Worcester, Mass. - The Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at UMass Memorial Medical Center has been chosen as a fellowship site for the Vietnam Family Medicine Project, a six-year enterprise created to bring the medical specialty of family medicine to Vietnam. UMass Memorial is the clinical partner of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

"Although its infant mortality rate is relatively low compared with other developing nations, Vietnam has health indicators among the lowest in the world, due to serious underfunding of its health care system. Moreover, thirty percent of Vietnamese children under age five suffer from acute or chronic malnutrition. This project represents an effort by the Vietnamese government to rectify this situation by making significant changes in health care delivery. Currently in Vietnam, the training of physicians based in rural community health centers is limited to what they learn in medical school. The goal of the Vietnam Family Medicine Project is to augment the education of primary care physicians with specialized training in family medicine," stated Matthew Collins, MD, a UMass Memorial physician specializing in family medicine and assistant professor of family medicine and community health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), who established UMass Memorial as a fellowship site.

To facilitate the training of Vietnamese physicians in the practice of family medicine, the departments of family medicine and community health at UMass Memorial, as well as those of the Maine Medical Center and Boston University Medical Center have been linked with the newly created departments of family medicine at Thai Nguyen University Medical College, Hanoi Medical College and Ho Chi Minh Medical College. "The training students receive here within the department of family medicine and community health at UMass Memorial has made our program in primary care one of the most highly regarded in the nation. It is a great satisfaction to be able to share our approach with physicians in developing countries," said Daniel Lasser, MD, MPH, associate professor and chair of the department of family medicine and community health at UMass Memorial.

In addition, UMass Memorial is hosting a Vietnamese physician, Dr. Hac Vinh Van, for a faculty development fellowship sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. Currently chair of the Department of Community Health at Thai Nguyen University Medical College of Thai Nguyen, Vietnam, Vinh will, upon completion of the fellowship, be appointed chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the same university. Vinh received a master's degree in Public Health from Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand, and a medical degree from Thai Nguyen University Medical College.

"Dr. Vinh will spend approximately nine months in Worcester learning to administer a family medicine residency program, spending the bulk of his time at The Family Health Center of Worcester, a site for the UMMS Family Practice Residency Program," explained Collins. "The Family Health Center treats a traditionally under-served and culturally diverse population. We strive to see every patient in the context of his or her culture and community, so I think Dr. Vinh will agree that our approach here can be applied anywhere in the world," added Collins.

Following the fellowship, UMass Memorial will provide on-going support through consultations and site visits to Thai Nguyen University Medical College throughout the six-year period. At the conclusion of the program, it is expected that Thai Nguyen and other Vietnamese universities will have self-sufficient departments of family medicine able to train a large number of physicians in the specialty of family medicine, thereby improving health care throughout Vietnam.