Not so traditional 'Summer Holiday' for UNDA students

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Summer 14-2-2007

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle

Publication Place



A traditional ‘summer holiday’ at the end of semester was definitely not the plan for five medical students from The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle.

Planning for their break started mid-way in 2006 when they committed to their very practical outreach endeavour ‘Vision Vietnam’. The group was ecstatic when three of them were awarded a grant by the Medical Insurance Group of Australia (MIGA). MIGA not only granted $2000 to each student but also generously donated $1500 to one of the HIV clinics visited by the students. Thanks to the support of the Whitford Parish the students were able to raise more funds for much needed medical supplies such as antibiotics, analgesics and a laser therapy machine for free HIV/AIDS clinics in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

A private donor also donated medical supplies and the Catholic organisation, St Vincent de Paul, gave a number of soft toys for the children in the orphanages.

It was the students’ aim to deliver the medical supplies and at the same time gain an insight into how effective healthcare can be delivered with the limited resources amidst real poverty and suffering. Another objective of the trip was for students to establish an ongoing relationship between Notre Dame and the HIV clinics.

Student, Nick Jones, said observing healthcare practices in such difficult environments gave students a real insight into how challenging it could be operating services in rural and remote communities in Australia where resources can also be limited.

“It was an intense privilege to volunteer in Ho Chi Minh. There was an overwhelming compassion and sense of community from patients’ families and staff treating them,” he said.

Student Marc Dantoc said the doctors at the free clinics were very committed and believed that people are entitled to medical care despite their personal circumstance.

“The issue of social justice is quite pertinent and my admiration goes to the highly qualified and skilled medical professionals who give their time and effort to patients who will never be able to afford even a fraction of the cost of a simple treatment or operation.

“The doctors said our presence and willingness to help, even only as medical students, was an encouragement for the doctors, nurses, health workers and patients.”

“Seeing, touching, and sharing with poverty stricken HIV patients was an experience I will never forget. The degree of social ostracism that is imposed on HIV patients generates so much needless pain. By holding patients hands and sharing some 'very' poorly spoken Vietnamese words we tried to help show that HIV patients were like everyone else. Troubled faces breaking into smiles were one of the more beautiful memories I took with me,” reflected student Damien Turner.

The students were particularly grateful to the founder and director of the free clinics, Dr Phan and MIGA for their belief in them and their financial support.

For more information about ‘Vision Vietnam’ call Nick Jones on 0437 202 697.