Upskilling Vietnam’s Workforce

By - World Healthcare Journal

Upskilling Vietnam

Thanks to the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation, Professor Martin Corbally and his team are saving children’s lives in Vietnam.


When Christina Noble arrived in Vietnam 30 years ago following a dream to work with the street children there, she little thought that she would have such a profound impact. She has since established over 164 projects providing education, healthcare and community development humanitarian services to vulnerable and destitute children, their families and poor rural communities. To date these projects have assisted almost 900,000 children and collectively have impacted the lives of over 1m children and adults.


One of its many initiatives was to invite top paediatric Irish surgeon Professor Martin Corbally to Ho Chi Minh City with some colleagues to treat children with congenital absence of the rectum and anus. They treated 25 children in Children’s Hospital Number Two, carrying out surgery that is standard in developed countries but was completely new in Vietnam in 2004.

“We treated a further 25 children the following year and it became apparent to us that the Vietnamese are really special people and the surgeons were very keen to learn new techniques,”

says Professor Corbally who is Chief of Staff at King Hamad University Hospital in Bahrain.

“Once we had that level of trust we moved on to more complicated issues, such as replacing the oesophagus in children who had swallowed caustic drain clearer out of cola bottles where it is often stored. We then moved on to lung and chest conditions. ”

One of his patients swallowed caustic when she was just three years old and underwent oesophageal replacement in 2006. An amazingly brave little girl (pictured with Helenita Noble CEO of CNCF and Professor Corbally) she had to swallow a large plastic tube 2-3 times each day for 6 years. She now swallows normally and is married with her own little girl.


With funding from Irish Aid, Profesor Corbally and his team were able to train Vietnamese doctors and nurses in Ireland with the aim of setting up a heart programme. When the grant ceased, the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation stepped in with funding and the heart programme opened in Ho Chi Minh City in 2010/2011.

“Before then up to 500 people were dying due to lack of access to open heart surgery and cardiology,”

says Professor Corbally.

“Now there is a fully trained cardiac programme in the children’s hospital and we go back once or twice a year bringing a surgical team, although the Vietnamese staff are really skilled at this work now. ”

The team has set up their own charity, Operation Childlife, that also works in Tanzania where Professor Corbally recently separated conjoined twins with local medics. The programme in Tanzania also includes kidney problems and orthopaedics, while Professor Corbally himself specialises in tumours.

“Doctors and nurses are not often given the opportunity to give back and we want to help,”

he continues.

“They are so generous with their time and skills – many use their annual holiday to work with these children. So it’s wonderful for us that the Vietnamese have realised that the health of children is the health of a nation, and the new children’s hospital is an outstanding facility. ”

The Christina Noble Children’s Fondation has invited Professor Corbally to visit Ulaanbaatar in Outer Mongolia where they also have a project.

“If we are asked to do something and it is within our capability, then we will do it,”

says Professor Corbally who is now recruiting younger professsionals to join his volunteer team.

“What you get out of this yourself is much more than you put in. There’s a huge return because the Vietnamese are so willing to take on new techniques - the returns are enormous. ”

For more information please contact Oliva Hearn: e: | t: +84 (0) 77 970 1597

Photo Credits: Piers Birtwistle

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