Local Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon Changing Lives in Vietnam

Paul Juliano, MD returns from surgical outreach project in Vietnam 

ROSEMONT, IL, Oct. 8, 2012 – Orthopaedic surgeon Paul Juliano, MD, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, 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. Juliano, professor and vice chair, Dept. of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Penn State College of Medicine, spent two weeks in July working side by side with Vietnamese orthopaedic surgeons in orthopaedic rehabilitation centers in the northern provinces of Vietnam. He worked in Hanoi and Vinh City, a coastal city south of Hanoi, 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; Naren Gurbani, MD, Downey, California; Aaron Guyer, MD, Tallahassee, Florida; 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. “The patients presented with a range of challenging problems that we do not often see in the United States. We used basic orthopaedic principles to accomplish specific surgical goals because 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,” said Juliano.

In Vinh City Drs. Juliano and Shields were greeted by a crowd of patients, doctors, nurses, government officials and the media as they arrived at the medical facility. As representatives of the AOFAS, they were recognized by the chairman of the People’s Committee of Nghê An Province for the Society’s ongoing commitment to humanitarian service for the disabled children and adults of Vietnam. The work of the volunteer surgeons and the further education for the local doctors was reported by the local television station.

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. Juliano. “I love to teach surgery, and as the teacher, I also learn. I have learned from their surgeons as well. “

With education as an important component of the outreach project, Dr. Juliano, 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.

Looking back on the experience, Dr. Juliano stated, “I was overwhelmed by the hospitality, humility, and gratitude of the Vietnamese people. This experience has made me a better surgeon, and hopefully a better person. It was truly a privilege to operate on these patients. I hope that the procedures that I performed with the Vietnamese surgeons will be performed skillfully by them. That would be a truly lasting gift!”

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

The Seattle-based Prosthetics Outreach Foundation (POF), www.pofsea.org, 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. 

Contact:

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

About the AOFAS
The AOFAS promotes quality, ethical and cost-effective patient care through the education, research and training of orthopaedic surgeons and other health care providers. The Society creates public awareness for the prevention and treatment of foot and ankle disorders, provides leadership, and serves as a resource for government and industry as well as the national and international health care communities.​
 
About Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons use medical, physical and rehabilitative methods as well as surgery to treat patients of all ages. Relying on four years of medical school training, five years of post-graduate training and often a fellowship in foot and ankle care, orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons perform reconstructive procedures, treat sports injuries, and manage and treat trauma of the foot and ankle.