Grass roots vision

Epworth foot and ankle specialist Dr Andrew Beischer established ‘Project HTO’ in January 2015 in partnership with Epworth and since then, 12 orthopaedic surgeons from Ho Chi Minh’s busiest trauma hospital have learned more about current surgical techniques in Melbourne, as well as enjoyed a taste of Australian life. But that is not all…

Another initiative that Dr Beischer identified as a priority under Project HTO was the introduction of an English learning program for 2017, alongside the plan to re-invigorate and re-stock the hospital library in Ho Chi Minh. Recognising its limited resources and decades-old text books and journals, he suggested the provision of an air-conditioner, supply of an up to-date supply of medical literature and online access to medical journals.

This idea was warmly embraced by everybody he told. Two friends immediately donated $10k through Norman Beischer Medical Research Foundation, established by Andrew’s beloved father, an Emeritus Professor who died just over two years ago after a lifetime vocation in obstetrics and gynaecology.

“The Epworth Medical Foundation then offered to meet that amount to supply new text books which will stay in the library. To enable staff to borrow books, I am encouraging my colleagues in the Australian Orthopaedic Association to clean out their shelves; and we’ll find a way to ship them over”, Dr Beischer said.

“In February, we extended the training to administrative and library staff from HTO who visited Epworth and Dandenong hospitals for clinical experience and training.”

“The new Epworth / HTO Friendship Library will be completed in early 2018. I liked the idea of what we can achieve through friendship and the name reminds me of the Friendship Bridge that the Australian government built over the Mekong River. Work will start there in May.

In his role of board member of the Australian Orthopaedic Association (AOA), Dr Beischer’s relationship with the Hospital for Traumatology and Orthopaedics (HTO) in Ho Chi Minh City helped established the program that sponsors young orthopaedic surgeons for a three month stay in Australia. Epworth joined the ‘Project HTO’ partnership and over time other initiatives have been developed and supported by several hospitals across Victoria.

“When the doctors come to Melbourne, they come to the beach with us, go to the footy, sing in St Ignatius church with the Vietnamese community and truly experience life and work in Australia. They are our friends and we have already forged lasting and generous relationships across several Melbourne hospital groups and with individual doctors.”

Nothing seems to hold back the systematic plans that Dr Beischer has to share surgery techniques and equipment enjoyed in privileged, developed countries. The library is one of four initiatives planned for this year under Project HTO. Apart from his father as mentor, Dr Beischer admires the Fred Hollows approach to improving another community’s health. “Just get in there and do it”, he says.

Project HTO library visit February 2017

Photo: Epworth Board Chairman Mr Rod Fitzroy with the visitors from Hospital for Traumatology and Orthopaedics (HTO) in Ho Chi Minh City (l-r) Mrs Nguyen Thi Ngoc Chinh, Chief of Nursing; Ms Nguyen Huynh Mai Anh, Librarian; and, Mrs Le Thi Thanh Nguyen, HR Manager