[Read about Minh Anh’s inspirational journey and the incredible opportunities being created in Vietnam thanks to the work begun by the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation and the Eye Care Foundation’s investment in Minh Anh and in the future of Vietnam.]
Minh Anh Tran was surrounded by inspiring medical professionals from an early age. Her mother was a Pediatric Ophthalmologist and as a child, Minh Anh was inspired by her and the other doctors and parents she knew who dedicated their lives to helping others in Vietnam. Minh Anh, who is an Optometrist and is in charge of the Optometry program in Hanoi Medical University, shared with Megan Webber at KTG her desire from an early age to become a doctor. Once she attended University she briefly second-guessed herself. Her change of mind led to the pursuit of an Economics Major instead of medicine but during the course of her studies she still felt something was missing. The “New” Profession of Optometry was beginning in Vietnam and an interview opportunity presented itself. Encouraged by her mother, Minh Anh interviewed and was accepted and in an instant, an amazing new world opened up to her.
The program involved spending four years studying Optometry in India with professors from the esteemed LV Prasad Eye Institute there. Minh Anh was exposed to a huge variety of clinical patients, many from underserved areas. In this incredible country, she saw many families who were able to take advantage of the incredible resources provided by optometrists and ophthalmologists there. She found the beauty in her profession and realized that it was not only impactful on others but also extraordinarily fulfilling for her personally.
Upon returning to Vietnam she was excited to see how her newfound knowledge could fit into the existing structure at HMU. There were many initial challenges forging a new path and it has been a long journey but with the support of the incredible team at HMU and with guides from SightForAll and Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) her work at the Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology (VNIO) has been beyond successful!
While the department at VNIO did not initially know quite where to put her, they were soon sending refraction and visual acuity patients her way. She started a contact lens clinic based on the training she’d received from the SightForAll team and helped reassure patients and their families about the benefits of wearing contacts to help alleviate their fears. Soon patients were returning joyfully ready to share how successful they were in adjusting to this new way to see the world.
In 2013 though there was still no school and no teachers to run an Optometry Program inside Vietnam. A local and international collaboration would soon change all of that. With the joint efforts of Brien Holden Vision Institute and the Eye Care Foundation which had sent Minh Anh to India for her four years of training the Brien Holden Vision Institute School of Optometry was established first at the Hanoi Medical University (HMU) in Hanoi and later at the University of Medicine Pham Ngoc Thach in Ho Chi Minh City.
Minh Anh was recruited to be a lecturer and excited to play a role in the future of her country. Through her belief in responsibility and her example of giving back, soon students in the developing program found themselves not only looking forward to graduating but found themselves equally excited about staying to support, volunteer, and teach at the schools.
In 2013 there were only three Optometrists in the entire country, Minh Anh being one of the three! Now there are 200 and that number will increase annually by 80 to 100 thanks to the efforts of the two schools. The first 12 student graduates were groundbreaking for the country. The key partnership between Brien Holden and the Hanoi Medical University was established and the education program for both schools is now firmly in place. The faculty was creatively gathered from America, Australia, Nepal, and others. Translation challenges were overcome and many Professors who would participate initially as international lecturers, would often then find themselves visiting and even staying for several years.
The reputation and support of leadership and the ongoing success of the graduates have ensured that the future is bright for Optometry Students in Vietnam. Even with the pandemic’s negative impact on in-class learning, the virtual opportunities have allowed the program to continue uninterrupted. The blend of optometry and ophthalmology professors and volunteers, the technology, equipment, and training are all now providing a clear and directed path for tomorrow’s Vietnamese optometrists!
Through mentorship and career guidance many graduates now work alongside the major hospitals or local clinics. Just within this past month the job code has been officially designated thanks to Minh Anh and her team working with the government and the Vietnamese Optometry Registry and the Licensing program should soon be completed as well.
The future is bright for optometrists in Vietnam. Finding ways to increase clinical exposure and build awareness of the incredible resources offered both for students and for patient families through these recent graduates ensures that the world of optometry is growing exponentially there. All of this is thanks to the initial big dreams and careful investments in and by a few key people who see clearly the value of optometry and its potential impact on vision care awareness, blindness prevention, and hopeful change for the children and families in Vietnam.
We will be excited to see what they do next!