Kennedy Krieger to instruct Vietnamese doctors, therapists

September 06, 1995|By Diana K. Sugg | Diana K. Sugg,Sun Staff Writer

As part of an exchange sparked by a father's concern for his child, Kennedy Krieger Institute will train Vietnamese physicians and therapists how to care for the disabled children of Vietnam.

During his visit to Hanoi this week, former President George Bush is awarding scholarships to two Vietnamese therapists to train at Kennedy Krieger in Baltimore. They will be funded by Citibank, which sponsored his visit. The bank will also send a multidisciplinary team from the institute to Vietnam after Thanksgiving to do an evaluation.

"We'll have a sense of how many children they're seeing and what problems they're dealing with," said Dr. Gary W. Goldstein, Kennedy Krieger's president and CEO, who will lead the team.

The efforts stem from the father of a child treated at Kennedy Krieger. After the man was transferred to Hanoi, he found that Vietnam's facilities were using braces made of bamboo and makeshift wheelchairs, Dr. Goldstein said.

"They had a lot of well-meaning people who were not well-trained," according to Dr. Goldstein.

Yet the need in Vietnam is great. Roughly 1 million children suffer from a disability, about half of them resulting in mobility problems.

Some disabilities are directly linked to the Vietnam War, as people are still being wounded by land mines. The war's economic fallout has caused other disabilities growing out of poor nutrition, a proliferation of diseases such as polio and lack of prenatal care.

Birth defects are common, according to the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation.

Through the veterans foundation, Vietnamese physicians toured U.S. facilities, including Kennedy Krieger, and Dr. Tran Trong Hai, head of the rehabilitation department for Vietnam's Ministry of Health, forged a relationship with physicians at the institute, which rehabilitates children suffering from injuries and developmental disabilities.

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