Naren Gurbani, MD, Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon, Changing Lives in Vietnam

Naren Gurbani, MD returns from surgical outreach project in Vietnam 

ROSEMONT, IL, Sept. 24, 2012 – Orthopaedic surgeon Naren Gurbani, MD, who practices at Kaiser Permanente in Downey, California, participated in this year’s 11th Annual Overseas Outreach Project to Vietnam with members of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS). The surgeons provide corrective surgery to Vietnamese children and adults with lower extremity deformities and disabilities caused by polio, cerebral palsy, clubfoot, trauma or amputation. Since the first project in 2002, more than 900 patients have benefited from surgery performed without charge by AOFAS volunteers and more than 2,200 patients have been seen in the clinics. Many patients are from impoverished areas often without access to care and/or are unable to afford advanced medical services.

Dr. Gurbani, who has volunteered in many countries over the past 15 years, spent July 21 to August 3 working side by side in clinics and operating rooms with Vietnamese orthopaedic surgeons in Dien Bien Phu and Thai Nguyen in the northern provinces and with residents at Viet Duc Hospital, the large teaching hospital in Hanoi. Other volunteers in this year’s four week project were: Jorge Acevedo, MD, West Palm Beach, Florida; Aaron Guyer, MD, Tallahassee, Florida; Paul Juliano, MD, Hershey, Pennsylvania; and Naomi Shields, MD, Wichita, Kansas.

AOFAS members volunteer their time and pay their own travel expenses to Vietnam. In-country expenses are supported by the Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Outreach & Education Fund (OEF) with charitable donations from individuals and industry.

Patients with untreated congenital deformities were common in the clinics. “As I was finishing the preoperative evaluation of a young lady with severe foot deformities, I asked her a simple question, "Do you have any brothers or sisters?” She answered affirmatively and right away her sister and a male cousin were brought into the exam room,” recalled Dr. Gurbani. “Now suddenly we were looking at three pairs of feet with severe Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease that needed surgical correction. This scenario was often repeated during my stay in Vietnam.”

In Dien Bien Phu, a sleepy town surrounded by mountains in the far north near the Laotian border, a local TV station filmed in the OR and reported on the work of the AOFAS volunteers and the further education for the local doctors. “The power of television became evident the next day when a large number of “mountain people” showed up at the hospital, some traveling for two days by foot!” said Dr. Gurbani. “We examined them in mini-clinics between planned surgeries and even squeezed in an additional surgery for residual club foot release.”

Despite the project’s hectic pace and the hot summer weather, AOFAS members worked tirelessly in evaluating patients, sharing knowledge, and teaching new techniques. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to teach many of our Vietnamese colleagues surgical and clinical evaluation techniques in treating complex foot and ankle problems,” said Dr. Gurbani. “We used basic orthopaedic principles to accomplish specific surgical goals as many of the implants, instruments, and imaging modalities we use in the United States for diagnosing and treating orthopedic foot and ankle problems are not available in Vietnam.”

With education as an important component of the outreach project, Dr. Gurbani, along with the other AOFAS volunteers, presented at the annual educational conference on Surgery of the Lower Extremities held on July 21 in Hanoi. Co-sponsored by the AOFAS, the conference utilized simultaneous translation and was attended by 135 Vietnamese orthopaedic surgeons. The AOFAS volunteers also conducted smaller seminars in the hospitals where they worked. The professional exchange enhanced the experience for both AOFAS members and Vietnamese orthopaedic surgeons, while the project’s service and educational components created opportunities for local surgeons to learn directly about new surgical advancements in the treatment of foot and ankle disease and deformities.

To learn more about the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society and its Overseas Outreach Project to Vietnam or to donate to the OEF, visit (About OEF).

The Seattle-based Prosthetics Outreach Foundation (POF),, is a partner organization of the AOFAS Overseas Outreach Project to Vietnam. POF has been providing prosthetic limbs to indigent Vietnamese children and adults without charge since the 1990s and its staff in Hanoi fan out to the provinces with public education and Ponseti training for early treatment of club foot.


Jennifer Hicks
Public Education Manager
Office: 847-430-5079